No team in football has been better at finding different ways to lose close games than the San Die— err sorry, Los Angeles Chargers the last two years. In 2015 and 2016, the Chargers went a combined 4-16 in games decided by seven points or less.
It appeared for a moment that Los Angeles, which trailed by 17 points entering the fourth quarter, would finally find a way to win a close one Monday. But then the Chargers Chargered.
Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo had a chance to tie the game on a 44-yard field goal in the game’s waning moments. Koo nailed the kick on his first attempt. But the play was negated because Broncos first-year coach Vance Joseph called a timeout just before Koo kicked it.
On Koo’s second attempt, Broncos reserve linemen Shelby Harris got a piece of the football — affecting it just enough so that it wouldn’t reach the uprights.
The miracle play saved the Broncos from an all-time collapse and allowed them to escape with a 24-21 win. Crisis averted.
The Broncos entered the final 15 minutes of play with a 17-point lead. Denver would have to hang on for a white-knuckled win.
Two turnovers let Los Angeles get back into the game.
First, Trevor Siemian, who otherwise played one of the better games of his career, tossed an interception on a screen pass gone awry. The Chargers took advantage by marching down the field for their second touchdown of the day.
Then Jamal Charles coughed up a fumble on the Broncos’ next possession. On the very next play, Chargers QB Philip Rivers rifled a 38-yard TD pass to Travis Benjamin that made it 24-21.
The Broncos were 175-0-1 when leading by 17 or more points entering the fourth quarter prior to Monday. They’d stay undefeated in those circumstances thanks to Harris’ block.
The game was reminiscent of Denver’s season-opening win over the Carolina Panthers last year. It was a national TV game at Mile High. The opposing team’s kicker had a chance to change the game’s outcome with the game on the line. Graham Gano’s miss from 50 yards out last year preserved a Broncos win. This year, Harris’ block helped the Broncos seal the deal.
It was hard to know exactly what to take away from Monday’s game. The offense looked better…until those two turnovers. Denver’s defense looked dominating…until the final 8 minutes of the game.
It’s good to get a little lucky sometimes. And to play against an opponent that’s made an art form out of blowing games.
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