4:54 P.M. PST: “Perfect” is by far the most apt adjective to describe the conditions. A clear day’s sunset creates a broad spectrum of colors dissolving into each other in the skies above. The Monday Night Football theme blares, and the crowd goes bonkers, just as some of the Chargers were as they walked past where I stood in a subterranean corridor below the stands here at Qualcomm Stadium.
4:57 P.M. PST: A gorgeous national anthem from a group of singers hailing from nearby Chula Vista H.S., but gracious, it seemed like it might take forever with some heavy orchestral accompaniment at the beginning and at the end … the last couple of notes were held for 30 seconds or so. Great voices, but that was a little much.
4:58 P.M. PST: The choral performance of the anthem was followed by another choral performance — from the Chargers’ fans, booing the Broncos.
4:59 P.M. PST: The Chargers’ dance team was just introduced by the public-address announcer as “the hottest team south of the North Pole.” I was going to write something snarky in response, but I’ll refrain. Too easy.
5:09 P.M. PST: After plenty of pregame hullabaloo, including fireworks — not the brightest idea in a fire zone — and the appearance of Santa Claus — I think that was the guy having an early dinner here in the press box a couple of horus back — we’re almost under way. The Broncos will receive the kickoff. The referees are in their cold-weather pants, for some odd reason — it’s in the 60s. Weird.
5:10 P.M. PST: Glenn Martinez to a hole, up field and to the Denver 47-yard-line … quite a roar from the thousands of Broncos fans who’ve infiltrated this crowd.
5:12 P.M. PST: Selvin Young picked up two yards on the game’s first play, and then 10 more on the second … Broncos at the San Diego 41.
5:13 P.M. PST: Nice grab by Tony Scheffler across the middle … an illegal-hands-to-the-face infraction on San Diego is declined … Broncos on the march at the San Diego 21.
5:14 P.M. PST: Stephen Cooper tosses Brandon Marshall to the ground like a chewed-up dog toy after an incompletion … now, that’s just not necessary.
5:15 P.M. PST: Disaster strikes … Cutler steps up with the pocket breaking down and fumbles after being hit by Luis Castillo; San Diego’s Shawne Merriman recovers and the Chargers will start at their 17-yard-line.
5:16 P.M. PST: No unexpected changes in the Broncos’ starting defensive XI; Jamie Winborn fills in for the injured Ian Gold.
5:18 P.M. PST: Two plays and a San Diego first down; Philip Rivers finds Vincent Jackson in space in front of Champ Bailey for nine yards, and the Chargers are at their 28.
5:20 P.M. PST: LaDainian Tomlinson does his usual thing, finding the edge on his second carry for eight yards … then he darts right for 16 more on the next play to move San Diego into Denver territory. The crowd chants “LT, LT, LT,” as it did last year when these teams met here.
5:21 P.M. PST: After an overthrown screen pass, Tomlinson goes left for no gain … a post-play scuffle, however, results in an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Lynch, who had made the tackle and then snatches loose Tomlinson’s helmet …
5:22 P.M. PST: Post-penalty the Chargers sit at the Denver 31.
5:24 P.M. PST: Nice open-field tackle by Dre’ Bly on Tomlinson on a third-down screen pass … but Nate Kaeding connects on the subsequent field goal. The penalty proves costly, and the Broncos trail 3-0.
5:27 P.M. PST: Kaeding kicks off to Andre Hall, who gets up to the Denver 34-yard-line … Two outstanding kickoff returns so far by the Broncos, one each by Martinez and Hall. Might have something with that combo back there.
5:29 P.M. PST: Broncos go backwards … False start pushes Denver back to its 29… Selvin Young gets four of the five yards back.
5:31 P.M. PST: Selvin Young goes left for a loss of one yard but Matt Lepsis grabs Shawne Merriman’s face mask as Young moves past … The officials rule that Lepsis’ grab was of the 15-yard variety, even though he seemed to grab it and quickly let go.
5:33 P.M. PST: Penalties piling up now … three for 35 yards … and Paul Ernster’s first punt upon his return sails out of bounds at the San Diego 44 — a 17-yard punt.
5:37 P.M. PST: Broncos force the Chargers into third-and-8 … but it goes for naught as Rivers finds Chris Chambers up the left sideline for 30 … Chambers had beaten Bly by a couple of steps.
5:38 P.M. PST: Jeromey Clary tackled D.J. Williams in the backfield … that ought to get you holding every time, and it does there. Chargers at the Denver 22.
5:41 P.M. PST: Two plays later … touchdown … Tomlinson scoots left for 20 yards … towels twirl and the Broncos trail, 10-0.
5:43 P.M. PST: Another solid return by Hall, and the Broncos start at their 32 … Hall has two returns for 57 yards; Martinez has one for 35 — a collective average of 30.7 yards per return.
5:44 P.M. PST: Travis Henry checks in and gains five yards on his first carry of the night … but then on the next play gets overrun as he tries to pick up Clinton Hart on a safety blitz. Broncos now in third-and-14 at their 28.
5:45 P.M. PST: Tony Scheffler with a splendid reception … Cutler’s third-down pass was behind him, but he reached back to make the grab and run another 12 yards to the Denver 45 for the 17-yard gain.
5:46 P.M. PST: After a one-yard gain, the Broncos will begin the second quarter in second-and-9 at their 46.
Tags: San Diego Chargers