CARSON, Calif. — This time, things went right for the Broncos.
In their first game since Brandon McManus missed a game-winning field goal attempt against the Texans, McManus knocked in his only field-goal attempt of the game to give the Broncos a 23-22 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton made huge catches of 38 and 30 yards, respectively, on the final drive to give McManus the chance from 34 yards.
This time, there was no doubt.
These were the moments and players that mattered in the Broncos’ first AFC West road win since the 2015 season.
Late in the third quarter, the Broncos appeared headed to another road divisional loss.
Von Miller wouldn’t let that happen.
With the Chargers leading 19-7 and driving with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, Miller expertly read a Philip Rivers screen pass and stepped in front to pick off the pass. Miller then bolted 42 yards to the Los Angeles 18-yard line before Travis Benjamin caught up with him.
Three plays later, Royce Freeman scored his first touchdown since returning from injury to bring the Broncos within a score of the Chargers.
The Broncos had to make plenty of plays as the game progressed, but there’s no doubt Miller’s savvy play changed the tone of the game and made the difference.
After a number of close losses in 2018, the Broncos finally closed out a win on the road.
The game book from Sunday’s contest between the Chargers and Broncos will show plenty of numbers that suggest the Chargers should’ve won the game. The Chargers won the time of possession, the third-down battle and yardage in nearly every category. But the only number that mattered was 34 yards, the length of Brandon McManus’ game-winning field goal. The Broncos, aided by winning the turnover battle and a key third down stop, gave themselves one final chance to win the game and took advantage. Sanders and Sutton made timely plays, and that matters more than 2-for-9 on third down or an overwhelming time-of-possession loss.
After the Broncos were stopped on offense for the third consecutive possession to start the game, punter Colby Wadman provided a spark. Wadman caught the snap and then found fullback Andy Janovich, who was open enough to catch the pass and pick up the first down. Wadman is just the third punter in Broncos history to complete a pass.
On offense, running back Phillip Lindsay posted perhaps the best game of his young career as he carried the ball 11 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The first touchdown came on the play after the Broncos’ fake punt, as Lindsay broke free and carried the ball 41 yards to give Denver a first-half lead. Lindsay later scored again — this time from the wildcat formation — to give Denver a 20-19 lead. The Colorado product also added four receptions for 27 yards. Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders both earn nods from their performance on the last drive alone. Sanders caught a pass for 38 yards, and then Sutton added one for 30 more to give the Broncos the chance to earn the win.
Defensively, the Broncos’ two most prominent players both made big plays. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. picked off Rivers in the first half to thwart a Los Angeles drive, and Von Miller grabbed Rivers’ second pick on a play that changed the game. Miller also sacked Rivers, which marked Miller’s 100th career sack, including the postseason.