CARSON, Calif. • Hallelujah! Ding dong, the witch is dead. The Broncos through the hoodoo.
In their most significant victory since Feb. 7, 2016, and their first victory of any kind since Dec. 2, 2018, and the first victory for Victory Fangio as head coach, the Broncos stopped the bleedings and beatings with a victory over the Chargers on Sunday.
A praying McManus, who missed an earlier field goal, resolved the matter with a 46-yard kick to push the Denver Broncos up by 10 just after the two-minute warning.
In the mini-stadium that is home away from home for the Broncos and their faithful followers (about 15,000 of the announced cozy gathering of 25,357), “we held them off, but we didn’t really finish,’’ Fangio said. The players presented the coach with the game ball. He gave it away to the person conveniently standing next to him — linebacker Alexander Johnson.
Anthony Lynn, the former Broncos’ reserve running back and current Chargers coach, was not thrilled and did not give out game balls or lollipops. “Sorry for that damn game. If we play like that, we won’t beat anybody.’’
The Chargers’ offense did not achieve even one touchdown.
The Broncos scored two ... in the first quarter and none after.
Nonetheless, 20 points was sufficient on this sunny Sunday to guarantee this team wouldn’t become the one and only in franchise history to start 0-5.
The Broncos’ defense reduced Philip Rivers to a trickle. Snidely Whiplash threw two interceptions in a miserable effort. One play before the second pick in the end zone by “Game ball’’ Johnson, Rivers lined up at wide receiver while Tyrod Taylor took over as a wildcat. Rivers was “defensed’’ by Chris Harris Jr. The two exchanged pleasantries. Seconds later, Rivers flung his errant ball. Earlier, he was called for intentional grounding at the Denver 16, and came up once with a fistful of nothing on the final play of the first half at the goal line.
“I don’t really have an answer,’’ Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa said. The erstwhile San Diego Chargers had no solutions for the other Phillip on the field — Lindsay, who carved out 114 yards on just 15 carries (7.6-yard average). Royce Freeman contributed 61, and the Broncos ran up 191 total rushing yards.
Last week Leonard Fournette gashed the Broncs for 225 yards. This week Melvin Gordon, back from his long retreat, offered only 31 yards on a dozen rushes, and the Chargers were limited to 35. Fangio was determined to shut down the run and deactivated starter Adam Gotsis for journeyperson Mike Purcell.
The return of safety Kareem Jackson from injury was the most critical change in the lineup. He prevented the end-of-the-half touchdown try with a forced fumble and made eight solo tackles. Johnson contributed the large interception, two pass deflections and six single tackles and three assists in his first start. He’s a keeper. Justin Simmons provided the Broncos with their first takeaway (interception) of the season.
The defense did all the heavy lifting; the offense was splendid in the first quarter, but mostly ordinary after, and the special teams were not. Desmond King II split the Broncos like Elijah (not Wilkinson) parted the Jordan River.
Fangio downplayed Vic No. 1. “The way I look at it is just the first win of the 2019 Broncos. Obviously, the next few days will be better than the few days after the last few games — for me and everyone else. I know the results don’t show it, and result can obscure a lot of things — justifiably so — but these guys have been doing everything we ask of them.’’
Down the hall Rivers was saying that he’s not aware “that I’ve ever won a game without scoring a touchdown.’’
It’s not often that anyone does.
Joe Flacco and Courtland Sutton connected on a sweet 70-yard catch-and-release touchdown.
If the Broncos are to climb out of this 1-4 Alice rabbit hole, the defense must play as authoritative as it did against the Chargers, and the offense has to come out quick and get ahead rather than spend an entire game playing like ketchup oozing out of a bottle. “For the past couple weeks, we got either behind or were having to play catch up and not (be) able to establish the run like we want,’’ Lindsay said. “When you are able to run the ball, you command the game.’’
Yippee ki yay. The Broncos find a way.