COIN TOSS: The Chargers have won the coin toss and will receive the ball to start the game. Matt Prater is on the field for the kickoff.
Q1 14:57: After the Monday Night Football theme music pumped through the speakers and Darren Sproles was taken down at the 28-yard line, the starting defense is on the field. It’s Kenny Peterson, Ronald Fields and Ryan McBean on the line, Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Williams, Andra Davis and Mario Haggan at linebacker and Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill in the secondary.
Q1 14:19: The first play of the game is a run by LaDainian Tomlinson, and he is tackled after a three-yard gain by Dawkins. Tight coverage by Bailey forces an incompletion on second down, and the Chargers now have a 3rd-and-7 on their own 27-yard line.
Q1 14:13: Darrell Reid and Brian Dawkins nearly sack Philip Rivers, but he throws it away just in time. The screams from the crowd seem to indicate there are plenty of Broncos fans here in Qualcomm Stadium.
Q1 13:59: The offense is on the field for its first drive of the game. It’s Kyle Orton at quarterback, Knowshon Moreno at running back, Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffer at tight end and Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal at receiver. Ryan Clady, Ben Hamilton, Casey Wiegmann, Chris Kuper and Ryan Harris make up the offensive line.
Q1 13:12: An incompletion on first down and a run by Moreno on second down set up a 3rd-and-5 for the Broncos. On the next play, Orton found Marshall, who moved his way past defenders for the first down.
Q1 12:06: After a two-yard sack on first down, Correll Buckhalter takes a screen pass on second down and picks up nine yards, avoiding one defender who made it past his block. On third down, Orton takes the snap in the shotgun, avoids pressure and quickly finds Moreno — but he’s tackled short of the first down. Brett Kern is on to punt with Darren Sproles back deep to receive for the Chargers. Sproles calls for a fair catch at his own 12-yard line, and there’s a flag on the play — it’s holding on the Chargers, and that pushes the line of scrimmage back to the 6-yard line. It was a 44-yard punt by Kern.
Q1 10:49: The Chargers offense is back on the field, and picks up 18 yards on a pass completion on first down. Bailey makes his presence known on the following play, however, breaking up a Rivers pass intended for Vincent Jackson. Andra Davis and a group of defenders take down Tomlinson at the line of scrimmage on second down, setting up a 3rd-and-9.
Q1 9:10: Bailey makes what appears to be a touchdown-saving tackle on Malcom Floyd, but it’s still a 20-yard gain and a first down. The next play looks like it will be a sack, but Rivers essentially shovels the ball in the direction of Tomlinson, who scampers for a 25-yard gain.
Q1 7:40: The Chargers have another first down after a 13-yard reception by Floyd. Now it’s a first-and-goal after a 12-yard run by Tomlinson.
Q1 6:45: Tomlinson is gobbled up in the backfield on the ensuing play, setting up second-and-goal at the 5-yard line. A three-yard gain sets up third-and-goal from the 2.
Q1 5:36: Sproles is brought down in the backfield on third-and-goal, a goal-line stand for the defense. The field goal unit is on the field. It’s a chip-shot attempt for Nate Kaeding, who knocks through the 20-yard field goal.
CHARGERS 3, BRONCOS 0
INJURY UPDATE: Dawkins has a hamstring injury and is questionable to return.
Q1 4:39: Eddie Royal fields the kickoff, follows his blockers and streaks all the way down the field into the end zone — a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Matt Prater is on the field for the point after, and it’s good. A quick answer for the Broncos. It’s the fifth-longest kickoff return for a touchdown in team history.
BRONCOS 7, CHARGERS 3
Q1 4:33: The Chargers take over at their own 26-yard line after Sproles’ kickoff return. The first play is a screen pass to Tomlinson, who gains close to a first down — after a measurement, the ball is practically one inch away from the marker. 2nd-and-1.
Q1 3:40 Darcel McBath sprints up to the line to help make the tackle on second down, but it’s just enough for the first down. Rivers finds Vincent Jackson on the following play — an eight-yard gain. A Tomlinson run on second down gives the Chargers another first down.
Q1 2:10: Rivers dumps it off to fullback Mike Tolbert, and he picks up 32 yards before being drilled by Bailey, forcing a fumble — but the ball flies out of bounds. First down for the Chargers at the Denver 28-yard line.
Q1 1:25: A completion by Antonio Gates sets up a first-and-goal for the Chargers at the 7-yard line. Tomlinson takes the handoff on first down and takes it to the 3-yard line. It looks like there’s time for one more play before the end of the quarter — and it’s a touchdown pass from Rivers to Jackson in the back of the end zone. The extra point is up and in with six seconds remaining in the first quarter.
CHARGERS 10, BRONCOS 7
Q1 0:06: Royal is back to return the kick again, and we’ll see if the playmaker can do it again. He finds a bit of a seam but is caught by a couple defenders at the 22-yard line as the quarter comes to a close.
INJURY UPDATE: Fields has a hamstring injury and is questionable to return.
Q2 14:30: A three-yard run on first down is followed by a one-yard run by Buckhalter on second down after it looked like he would be taken down by a blitz in the backfield. On 3rd-and-7, the crowd is going crazy. Orton steps back into the shotgun, takes the snap and finds Buckhalter for the first down.
Q2 13:00: Moreno picks up four yards on first down before swinging out wide and trying to catch a quick Orton pass on second down — it goes off his hands out of bounds, setting up 3rd-and-6. The Broncos have a formation with three receivers to the right, and Orton takes the snap in the shotgun. The pass protection is excellent, as he has all the time in the world to find Jabar Gaffney down the middle of the field for a 27-yard gain.
Q2 11:10: Back-to-back runs by Moreno sets up a 3rd-and-2 for the Broncos at the San Diego 25-yard line. Orton takes the snap in the shotgun and gets it to Moreno again. The rookie finds a hole and picks up the first down after a six-yard gain.
Q2 9:50: Buckhalter is tackled after a gain of a yard on first down, and a false start makes it 2nd-and-14. Tony Scheffler snags his first reception of the day — a 7-yard gain — making it 3rd-and-7 on the 16-yard line. Orton backs up into the shotgun, scrambles to his right and tries to find Marshall but the pass falls incomplete. There’s a flag on the play, however, and now there are multiple flags as Marshall was irritated he didn’t get a flag and kicked the ball after the play. Two flags on the play offset — pass interference on the defense and unsportsmanlike conduct on Marshall — and the teams will replay the down.
Q2 8:03: Orton is in the shotgun again and tries to find a diving Royal, but the pass falls incomplete and Prater is on the field to attempt a field goal. The 34-yard attempt is good, and the Broncos tie the game.
BRONCOS 10, CHARGERS 10
Q2 7:50 Sproles has a 21-yard kickoff return and the Chargers take over at their own 32-yard line. Marcus Thomas takes down Tomlinson in the backfield on first down, setting up 2nd-and-11. After it looks like Dumervil had a sack in his grasp, Rivers scrambles out of the pocket and manages to pick up a yard before sliding to avoid being hit. On third down, Goodman comes streaking into the backfield and snags a sack for a loss of seven. It’s Goodman’s first career sack, and it was helped by some big-time pressure by Wesley Woodyard up the middle.
5:53: Royal is at it again. Back to field the punt, he picks it up after a bounce and streaks through defenders up field for his second return touchdown of the day — a 71-yard punt return for a score. Prater’s extra point is good, and the Broncos have retaken the lead. Chants of “Eddie! Eddie!” are ringing through Qualcomm right now. Quite a showing by Broncos fans.
BRONCOS 17, CHARGERS 10
Q2 5:47: Sproles is tackled at the 29-yard line after the kickoff return — and Jack Williams is down after the play. He walks off the field with the help of trainers, and the Chargers will have a first down on the other side of the TV timeout.
Q2 4:18: Ronald Fields is back on the field after being reported questionable with a hamstring injury. The Chargers have a first down on the Denver 47-yard line after a big gain by Antonio Gates on third down. The tight end gets another catch on the ensuing play, a 16-yard gain to the 31-yard line. A Bronco is down after the play — looks like Mario Haggan.
Q2 3:37: Haggan walks of the field with the help of trainers, and Dawkins is right beside him wlaking off the field, making sure he’s OK. The Chargers now have a first down at the Denver 31-yard line. Rivers takes the snap in the shotgun and overthrows Chris Chambers down the sideline with Goodman in tight coverage.
Q2 3:12: Tomlinson takes the handoff on second down and is taken down by Dumervil after a gain of five. 3rd-and-5 for the Chargers at the 26-yard line. Rivers is in the shotgun flanked by two backs. His pass falls incomplete, and there’s a flag on the play — holding on the offense. The penalty is declined, setting up fourth down.
Q2 2:21: Kaeding’s 44-yard field goal is good.
BRONCOS 17, CHARGERS 13
INJURY UPDATE: Jack Williams has a shoulder injury and Mario Haggan has a knee injury. Both are questionable to return.
2:00: A five-yard run by Moreno on first down brings us to the two-minute warning. A note on Royal’s performance today — he is the first Bronco in team history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game. He is the sixth player in the NFL since the merger (1970) to do so, and just the 11th player in NFL history to achieve the feat.
Q2 1:30: Another run by Moreno sets up 4th-and-4 for the Broncos. Orton’s pass is incomplete, and Brett Kern is on to punt. Sproles is deep to receive for the Chargers — he’s standing at his own 20-yard line. It’s quite a special teams game today — Sproles takes back the punt for a 77-yard touchdown return. The extra point is up and in.
CHARGERS 20, BRONCOS 17
Q2 1:03: Alphonso Smith is back deep to receive the kickoff, and he finds a tiny hole up to the 23-yard line. With less than a minute remaining in the half, the Broncos throw a quick screen to Buckhalter, and he’s tackled after a four-yard gain. Orton drops back to pass on second down, but he has to scramble to avoid some pressure, gaining a yard before running out of bounds.
Q2 0:29 Orton is back in the shotgun with Buckhalter to his right. He drops back and finds Brandon Stokley for the first down, and there’s a flag on the play — it’s a personal foul for a horse-collar tackle on the defense. Following the penalty, the Broncos have the ball at midfield. Orton drops back , rolls to his left and fires high to Stokley, who picks up what looks like another first down. The Broncos then call a timeout after the 11-yard gain. They have one remaining.
Q2 0:11: It’s 1st-and-10 at the 39-yard line. Orton drops back and fires for Royal — it’s broken up by Antonio Cromartie. With six seconds left in the half, the offense is on the field on 2nd-and-10. Orton and the offensive line simply push the line forward three yards then call a timeout with three seconds remaining.
Q2 0:03: Prater is in to attempt a 54-yard field goal. It’s no good as the first half comes to a close. The score remains 20-17 in favor of the Chargers. See you in the second-half live blog.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com