Chargers send Broncos to 1st shutout loss in 25 years, 21-0
CARSON, California (AP) — When the cannon sounded and thousands of orange-clad fans trudged to their cars, Joey Bosa and his teammates celebrated a few milestones with their half of the home crowd.
For the first time since Dec. 18, 1960, the Los Angeles Chargers won a home game.
And they did it by sending their archrivals from Denver to their first shutout loss in nearly a quarter-century.
“That’s a cherry on top,” Bosa said.
Travis Benjamin returned a first-quarter punt 65 yards for a touchdown and caught a 42-yard TD pass in the fourth, and the Chargers played a dominant defensive game in the first home victory of their relocation season, 21-0 over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Bosa and Chris McCain each had two of the Chargers’ five sacks. Los Angeles’ defense forced three turnovers and flattened Trevor Siemian and the Broncos (3-3), who hadn’t been blanked in 394 games since a 24-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders on Nov. 22, 1992.
The Broncos had the longest active scoring streak in the NFL and the second-longest in league history, surpassed only by San Francisco’s 420-game streak from 1977 to 2004. Incredibly, the Indianapolis Colts’ 375-game streak — the third-longest in league history — also ended Sunday.
Philip Rivers passed for 183 yards in his 100th victory, hitting Austin Ekeler for an early TD and Benjamin for the late clincher, but even the veteran quarterback was a grateful spectator.
“It was fun to watch our defense play,” Rivers said. “Man, they were awesome.”
The Chargers (3-4) have won three straight under new coach Anthony Lynn following a winless opening month in their first season back in Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego.
“We feel like it’s wide open,” said Lynn, whose Chargers are on their first three-game winning streak since November 2014. “We dug a hole for ourselves, and we’re just climbing out of the hole. We know we’ve got a hill to climb. Today we just took more steps. It’s starting to pay off for us.”
The Chargers had lost seven consecutive home games since last November, and they hadn’t won a home game as the LA Chargers since the final game of the AFL’s inaugural regular season, after which they lost the championship game to the Houston Oilers and then moved south.
But the Bolts largely dominated the Broncos, who have lost three of four with a flagging offense that has managed three touchdowns in four games. Los Angeles also avenged its season-opening loss in Denver on a blocked field goal at the end.
Siemian passed for 207 yards, but Denver lost to the Chargers for just the third time in the AFC West rivals’ past 14 meetings — and did so in historic fashion.
“You can’t lose two games straight and not have any issues,” said Von Miller, who sacked Rivers twice. “So we’ve obviously got issues that we need to address from the top down. I strongly feel we’ll get this corrected.”
The Broncos, who have never been shut out at home, might have been able to preserve their non-shutout streak with long field goals in the fourth quarter. But coach Vance Joseph went for it twice on fourth down and ended up with an interception and a turnover on downs.
“It wasn’t simply on Trevor,” Joseph said. “I felt up until five minutes to go, it was a game we could have won. ... We’re not blocking well. We’re not protecting well. We had some good plays called again today. We had some guys wide open. We’re just not hitting the passes. It’s puzzling.”
The Chargers forced a turnover on Denver’s opening drive and advanced to the Broncos 1, but failed to punch it in on four straight running plays. Undeterred, the Los Angeles defense got a stop, and Benjamin allowed one big bounce before scampering down the middle for the Chargers’ first punt return for a TD since 2012.
Ekeler caught a 1-yard swing pass from Rivers for a TD in the second quarter to put the Chargers up 14-0 — their biggest lead in their past 14 games.
Benjamin’s TD punt return was only the Chargers’ second touchdown of the season in a first quarter, where they had been outscored 50-7.
Miller moved past Karl Mecklenburg for second place in Broncos history in sacks behind Simon Fletcher. Miller has sacked Rivers 16 times.
Denver’s offensive struggles were likely related to the injury absences of right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) and receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ankle), Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) and Cody Latimer (knee).
The Chargers played without starting right tackle Joe Barksdale (turf toe) and key defensive lineman Corey Liuget (back). They lost LG Matt Slauson to a biceps injury in the second half.
Broncos: At Chiefs on Monday night in a prime-time chance to answer back in the AFC West race.
Chargers: At Patriots on Sunday for the first of two straight transcontinental road trips, with their bye week sandwiched in between.
More AP NFL: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL