Source: Associated Press
DENVER (AP)—Philip Rivers overcame two big turnovers to lead the San Diego Chargers to a 29-24 win over
Denver despite Tim Tebow’s best efforts to rally the Broncos from a 16-point deficit.
Tebow ran for a touchdown and threw for another after replacing Kyle Orton to start the third quarter, and had one final shot for the win before his pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play.
Nick Novak kicked five field goals and Ryan Mathews ran for a career-best 125 yards for San Diego, which takes a 4-1 record into its bye week.
Denver (1-4) is full of questions heading into its break, chief among them: Is this Tebow’s team or was this just a temporary fix?
Orton was awful in the first half. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 34 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
A fan favorite, Tebow was cheered the instant he trotted onto the field for Denver’s first possession in the third quarter. The crowd was so loud that Tebow couldn’t hear the play call in his helmet.
Tebow was rusty after having played just a handful of snaps this season and not throwing a single pass before Sunday.
He bobbled his second snap under center, disrupting the timing of the play, and Willis McGahee lost 3 yards on the hand-off. On third down, Tebow looked left, then right and threw to Eric Decker’s shoe tops for no gain.
The Broncos also punted on their next two possessions before the former Florida star scored on a 12-yard run as Orton, wearing a long, heavy coat and baseball cap, clapped from the sideline. Willis McGahee’s 2-point conversion cut San Diego’s lead to 26-18 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Robert Ayers sacked and stripped Rivers on the ensuing possession, and cornerback Andre’ Goodman recovered at the San Diego 41 with 4:38 left.
A little more than a minute later, Knowshon Moreno turned a short screen pass from Tebow into a 28-yard touchdown. But after a timeout, Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd couldn’t come down with the 2-point conversion pass, which was stripped away by cornerback Antoine Cason as they tumbled out of bounds.
Rivers hit a third-down pass and linebacker D.J. Williams was whistled for a personal foul in the closing minutes, and Novak’s fifth field goal, this one from 35 yards, made it 29-24 with 24 seconds remaining.
Novak booted the kickoff out of the end zone, not giving Quan Cosby a chance to bring it out. Tebow hit Lloyd for 20 yards and tight end Daniel Fells for 31, though. He raced downfield and spiked the ball at the Chargers 29 with a second left.
After another San Diego timeout, Tebow took the snap, scrambled around for more than 10 seconds and then threw into the end zone. The ball fell incomplete.
Despite the disappointment, the crowd chanted “Tebow! Tebow!” as fans filed out of the stadium.
For once they weren’t calling for the former college star to get into the game, but for him to stay under center.
Tebow’s quarterback rating was 101.7 compared to Orton’s 21.0 despite completing four of his 10 passes for 79 yards. He also ran six times for 38 yards.
Rivers was 18 of 29 for 250 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Chargers had a tough time in the red zone in the first half, gaining 9 yards on a dozen snaps inside the Broncos’ 20 and settling for three chip-shot field goals.
Cassius Vaughn returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown that gave Denver a 7-6 lead.
Rivers’ pass bounced off wide receiver Patrick Crayton’s hands and Vaughn plucked the fluttering football out of the air and raced untouched into the end zone for Denver’s first defensive touchdown since Champ Bailey’s 70-yarder against San Francisco on Dec. 31, 2006.
Vaughn, however, was beaten badly by Malcom Floyd on a 43-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the first half that put the Chargers ahead 23-10. Floyd broke free from Vaughn down the right sideline, and rookie safety Quinton Carter, subbing for injured Brian Dawkins (neck) couldn’t come over the top fast enough.
That score came after the Broncos burned just 45 seconds off the clock after getting the ball at their 20 with 1:47 left before halftime in what turned out to be Orton’s final series of the day.