It’s 34 degrees as the Broncos dart through a plume of smoke and onto the field for the game, a sea of orange pom-poms — or “shakers,” as they are wont to call them back in the South — waving furiously in the stands.
6:18 P.M. MST: It’s always a curious transition when NBC goes from Pink to the John Williams music that sounds like their theme from Meet the Press. (That would be appropriate if the Buffalo Bills — who count Tim Russert among the hardiest of their fans — were involved.)
6:20 P.M. MST: San Diego wins the toss and will receive. The Broncos will go from south to north — right to left on the television. The wind is negligible; the night is tolerably chilly.
6:22 P.M. MST: San Diego opens the game with Antonio Gates split out in the slot to the right side. Ebenezer Ekuban and Ian Gold are back in the starting lineup.
6:24 P.M. MST: The Chargers bench over on the far side of the field erupted at the sight of Nick Ferguson getting his hand into the area of LaDainian Tomlinson’s face mask. Two plays later, the Chargers place both Tomlinson and backup Michael Turner onto the field concurrently, although they split Tomlinson wide after putting him in motion. A potentially dangerous on-field combination that bears watching.
6:27 P.M. MST: Ian Gold was caught offsides up the middle, with his forearm crossing over the line of scrimmage prior to a third-and-9. The infraction nullified a third-down stop; the replay of the down saw Philip Rivers find Keenan McCardell just past Darrent Williams for the first down.
6:31 P.M. MST: This time, Gold anticipated the snap perfectly … unblocked from the right side where he landed a haymaker of a shot upon Rivers, forcing a shot-put incompletion.
6:32 P.M. MST: Denver opens in a two-tight end, no-fullback formation. Mike Bell is at tailback; Chad Mustard is the second tight end.
6:35 P.M. MST: Three-and-out after Mike Bell gains six yards on first-and-10. Paul Ernster turns in a net of 39 yards after Eric Parker returns the 54-yard punt 15 yards to the San Diego 48.
6:38 P.M. MST: After inundating Rivers with pressure on the first series, the Broncos rush four men and let Rivers drop back — and promptly saddle the third-year quarterback with his first interception in 125 throws when Gerard Warren tips a pass into Nick Ferguson’s grasp. Mike Bell is back in the game for the second drive, gaining four yards on his second carry tonight.
6:41 P.M. MST: The absences of Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo and now Shawn Phillips has yet to hinder San Diego’s pass rush. Ernster, though, turns a three-and-out into a field-position advantage, lofting a punt that Curome Cox downs at the 1-yard-line, netting a well-deserved standing ovation.
6:45 P.M. MST: Denver blitzes on third-and-8, but Rivers still finds Tomlinson for a 9-yard pass and a first down.
6:51 P.M. MST: The field-position advantage has vanished now, thanks to a San Diego march that has the Bolts at the Denver 13 … and now to the 5-yard-line after Rivers found Parker on third-and-2. One play later, Tomlinson gets outside and scores easily, eight seconds before the end of the quarter.
6:54 P.M. MST: San Diego actually gained 104 yards on that drive — a 5-yard penalty in the middle of a 99-yard march. Mike Bell handles the subsequent kickoff return and returns it to the 27-yard-line, but a face-mask infraction n Nate Jackson brings the Broncos back to the Denver 12.
Tags: San Diego Chargers