Chargers fall to Broncos 17-3
SAN DIEGO — The Broncos capped a fifth consecutive season of winning every AFC West road game Sunday, swarming the San Diego Chargers, 17-3, in front of a sea of orange at Qualcomm Stadium.
Demaryius Thomas caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and the Broncos (10-2) forced three turnovers to win their third consecutive game and maintain a three-game lead in the division over the Kansas City Chiefs with four to play.
Danny Travathan returned an interception 25 yards for a score and the Broncos recovered two fumbles to win their 15th consecutive AFC West road game, an NFL record.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler again was efficient in place of the injured Peyton Manning, completing 16 of 26 passes for 166 yards and one interception.
Manning, who is recovering from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, could return next week.
The Broncos defense was dominant and never gave the Chargers (3-9) much chance of coming back after falling behind, 17-0, in the second quarter. Besides the three turnovers, the Broncos snapped San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers four times.
San Diego had only 272 yards and Rivers was a meager 18 of 35 for 202 yards.
Still, the Broncos lost four starters to injuries as C.J. Anderson went out with an ankle injury, and Vernon Davis and Travathan to concussions. Backup safety David Burton Jr. also suffered a leg injury late in the fourth quarter.
Relive the game below as it unfolded. The Broncos return home next week to play the Oakland Raiders at 2:05 p.m. at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
With Qualcomm Stadium a sea of Broncos orange, Denver took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards with relative ease, with quarterback Brock Osweiler completing 3 of 4 passes for 40 yards, and Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combining for 36 yards on the ground.
Osweiler capped the drive by finding Demaryius Thomas with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 11:25 to play in the first quarter and a quick 7-0 lead.
After starting near midfield, the Chargers drove to the Broncos 30-yard line where the Denver defense held as San Diego’s Josh Lambo missed a 48-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
After going three-and-out, the Broncos punted, but they expanded their lead to 14-0 with four seconds to play in the first quarter when Danny Travathan intercepted Philip Rivers and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
It was the fifth time this season the Broncos defense has scored, including four pick-sixes. The team record for most interception returns for a touchdowns in a season is five, set in 1997, 2000 and 2012.
The Broncos extended their lead to 17-0 with 5:26 to play in the second quarter, going 46 yards in 14 plays and chewing 7:18 off the clock, capped by a 23-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.
The Chargers responded just before halftime when Lambo connected on a 51-yard field goal to cut the Broncos’ lead to 17-3 with 1:41 left in the first half.
Osweiler finished the first half 10 of 16 for 97 yards and the Broncos ran for 72 yards, led by Anderson’s 42 yards. San Diego could not get going against the Denver defense, yielding the pick-six and two sacks, and only mustering 126 yards.
On San Diego’s opening drive of the second half, it drove just past midfield, but Melvin Gordon fumbled and the Broncos’ Von Miller recovered.
The Broncos could capitalize, but McManus missed a 52-yard field goal with 9:20 left in the third quarter.
But any hope the Chargers had continued to vanish on their next possession when a Rivers pass to Malcolm Floyd was fumbled and recovered by Darian Stewart.
It marked the fifth time this season the Broncos have had at least three takeaways in a game and gave them six takeaways in their past three games after a three-game drought.