CARSON, Calif. (AP)Phillip Lindsay ran for 114 yards, Denver’s defense forced three turnovers and the Broncos got their first win under Vic Fangio by defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 20-13 on Sunday.
Joe Flacco completed 14 of 20 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown as Denver (1-4) raced to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and held on for the 500th victory in franchise history.
Los Angeles (2-3) struggled most of the game and had two turnovers inside the Denver 5. The Chargers got within 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter, but Denver’s Brandon McManus put it out of reach with a 46-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining.
Chase McLaughlin’s 32-yard field goal brought LA back within a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining, but Denver recovered the onside kick to put it away.
”We finished but it was painful. Hanging on is a better term,” Fangio said. ”We moved the ball well during the first half and then it disappeared for most of the second half.”
Philip Rivers was 32 of 48 for 211 yards with two interceptions. Melvin Gordon was held to 31 yards rushing in his first game back after a holdout. Fellow running back Austin Ekeler had 15 receptions for 86 yards. The Chargers did not score an offensive TD for the first time since Dec. 13, 2015, against Kansas City, snapping a 55-game streak.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn showed some frustration for one of the few times during this three-year tenure when he opened his postgame news conference by saying ”Sorry to keep you good people waiting, and sorry for watching that damn game. We play like that, we won’t beat anybody.”
The Broncos dominated from the start and scored touchdowns on their first two drives for the first time in 17 games. Lindsay’s 4-yard run up the middle marked the first time Denver scored on its opening drive this season. The Broncos didn’t have a play over 20 yards on the first drive over the first four games. But Flacco had a 26-yard strike to tight end Jeff Heuerman and Lindsay had a 21-yard gain off left guard to put the Broncos deep in Chargers territory two plays into the game.
After a Chargers punt, Denver took a two-TD lead when Courtland Sutton went 70 yards up the left sideline. Sutton caught the ball at the Chargers 45, slipped out of an attempted tackle by Rayshawn Jenkins and then eluded a diving Roderic Teamer for this third touchdown in the past two games.
McManus added a 40-yard field goal to give Denver a 17-0 halftime lead.
”We kind of creased a couple runs early and made the big play to Sutton. We had them on their heels a little bit,” Flacco said. ”I think they did change some things a little in the back end and started playing some more quarters. We let them get some momentum, and they played the run game a little better at times.”
Los Angeles had two chances to score in the first half but came up empty both times. New kicker McLaughlin’s 48-yard field goal was partially blocked midway through the second quarter. Ekeler then was stopped at the Broncos 1 by Kareem Jackson and fumbled as he tried to reach the goal line. It is the first time since 2012 the Chargers have been shut out in the first half at home.
The Chargers’ red zone woes continued in the third quarter. Kyzir White’s interception of Flacco gave them the ball at the Denver 7, but Rivers tried to throw it into double coverage and was picked off by Alexander Johnson in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 2.
The Chargers finally got on the board with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Desmond King returned a punt 68 yards. It is the second punt return TD in his career, the eighth player in franchise history with multiple scores.
Los Angeles closed to 17-10 on McLaughlin’s 45-yard field goal with 6:47 remaining.
Gordon had 38 scrimmage yards in his first game back after a 64-day holdout due to a contract dispute. The Chargers got him involved quickly with a 4-yard screen pass on their first play. Gordon reported back on Sept. 26 and was activated prior to last week’s game at Miami but did not play.
The Chargers came into the game averaging 103.5 rushing yards but were held to 35. The Broncos allowed 225 yards to Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette a week ago and had the third-worst run defense.
”He didn’t have many opportunities, I can tell you that, but he played OK,” said Lynn of Gordon. ”We didn’t have a full-speed practice last week because of certain injuries, but he’s going to get better.”
Broncos: CB De’Vante Bausby was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field on a cart during the second quarter. He was injured when he collided with Johnson while making a tackle on Ekeler. Bausby was taken to a local hospital and was reported to have movement in his arms and legs. … LB Justin Hollins suffered a knee injury during the second half.
Chargers: C Mike Pouncey suffered a neck injury during the first half and did not return.
Broncos return home to face Tennessee next Sunday.
Chargers host Pittsburgh next Sunday night.
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