15:00: Darren Sproles is back to receive for the Chargers, and the Broncos special teams unit is gathered at the 20-yard line. Matt Prater has the football from the referee, and he sets it on the tee. It’s game time.
Prater’s kick sails to the four-yard line and Sproles heads toward the sideline — he makes it up to the 30-yard line.
The starting defense comes out onto the field — it’s Ebenezer Ekuban, Marcus Thomas, Dewayne Robertson and Elvis Dumervil on the line, D.J. Williams, Nate Webster and Jamie Winborn at linebacker and Champ Bailey, Dre’ Bly, Vernon Fox and Josh Barrett in the secondary.
14:25: On the first play of the game, the Chargers employ some trickery. Philip Rivers fakes a handoff to LaDainian Tomlinson and then pitches it to Vincent Jackson on an end-around. The receiver picks up 17 yards.
On the following first down, Tomlinson finds a hole for another first down, but there’s a flag on the play — holding on San Diego.
13:41: After an incomplete pass on first-and-20, Rivers winds up and launches a pass downfield that falls incomplete — but there’s a flag on the play. Pass interference on the Broncos, and the Chargers are set up just outside the Denver 10-yard line.
UPDATE: Champ Bailey is off the field after making the first two tackles of the game.
13:05: Tomlinson is stuffed for a loss of two on first down. Rivers is in the shotgun formation and he’s brought down by Ebenezer Ekuban for a five-yard sack on second down. It’s now third-and-17 for San Diego on the Denver 19-yard line. Rivers drops back and finds Antonio Gates for a nine-yard pickup, but it’s fourth down and Nate Kaeding is onto the field to attempt a 28-yard field goal.
It’s through the uprights, and the Chargers lead the Broncos early, 3-0.
INJURY UPDATE: Champ Bailey is headed to the locker room — but he’s jogging there.
11:41: Kaeding is on the field for the kickoff, and there’s a new face back to return the kick for the Broncos. Chad Jackson is set to receive.
Another Champ update: it’s a left elbow injury, and his return is questionable.
Jackson fields the ball and finds a seam up to the 27-yard line. The crowd is going nuts as the Broncos offense heads out onto the field for its first play.
The starters on offense are Ryan Clady, Ben Hamilton, Casey Wiegmann, Chris Kuper and Ryan Harris on the line, Tatum Bell in the backfield, Jay Cutler at quarterback, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal at wide receiver and Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler at tight end.
11:22: On first down, Cutler gets the ball quickly to Chad Jackson, but he’s taken down in the backfield for a loss of three. On second down, Cutler drops back, has plenty of time and finds Scheffler just past the first down marker. It’s a gain of 17 and a first down.
10:40: On first down, Cutler is in the shotgun and tries to get the ball out quickly to Brandon Marshall, but it’s just in front of him and sails out of bounds.
Second-and-10, Denver. Cutler is in the shotgun again with Bell to his left. Graham goes in motion from left to right, and that’s where Cutler looks after he snaps the ball. Graham jukes one defender and picks up nine yards. That makes it third-and-1.
Cutler hands off to Tatum Bell, who hits the hole and picks up the first down.
9:24: It looks like it’s a designed run on first down, but Cutler is taken down by Igor Olshansky behind the line, though it’s not credited as a sack. On second-and-12, Cutler drops back and completes it to Brandon Stokley for another first down.
Cutler pitches it to Bell on first down, who picks up nine yards on first down.
7:43: Second-and-1 for the Broncos at the San Diego 26-yard line. Cutler once again tries to get the ball out quickly to Marshall, but he can’t quite handle it — the ball drops to the turf incomplete.
Third-and-1. The crowd is as loud as it’s been all night as Cutler hands off to Bell, who hits the hole and gets intot he endzone for a touchdown. He chucks the ball at the wall behind the end zone as he’s mobbed by teammates. Prater is on the field for the extra point. Brett Kern has the hold — it’s up and good, but there’s a false start penalty.
One more try — Prater’s PAT bounces off the left upright.
The Broncos still lead the Chargers early, 6-3.
7:36: Prater is back to kick off with Sproles deep to receive. The kick lands at the seven-yard line and Sproles is drilled by Wesley Woodyard at the 27-yard line.
Tomlinson is tackled after no gain on first down. Champ Bailey was one of the tacklers — he’s back in the game with a wrap on left elbow.
6:38: Vincent Jackson picks up 10 yards on a pass from Philip Rivers, notching a Chargers rifrst down at their own 37-yard line.
On first down, Rivers drops back and lofts a pass down field to Jackson. It looks like it’s going to be just overthrown, but Jackson stretches all the way out and makes a diving catch at the Denver 26-yard line. First down.
On the next play, Rivers is chased into running up the middle — he’s stopped for no gain.
4:40: On second-and-10, Tomlinson takes the carry up the middle close to the first down marker — it’s a nine-yard gain.
Third-and-1 at the Denver 17. Rivers takes the snap and pushes forward on the quarterback sneak, picking up the first down. There’s a flag on the play, however — personal foul on the Broncos. It looks like they’re getting D.J. Williams for coming in with a hit just a little late.
Now it’s first-and-goal for the Chargers at the 8-yard line. Tomlinson takes the carry to the 1-yard line, where he’s tackled by Bailey.
The crowd is chanting, “L.T., L.T., L.T.” as Rivers hands off to the back. He fights his way into the end zone and Rivers sprints to the 30-yard line to give a fist pump.
The extra point is good, and the Chargers lead the Broncos 10-6.
2:52: Jackson is back to receive the kick for the Broncos. He fields it running at about the 10-yard line and gets to the 25-yard line before being taken down. That’s where the Broncos offense will take over on the other side of a TV timeout.
Cutler gets the ball to Daniel Graham on a sort of bubble screen — he takes the pass with some blockers ahead of him and picks up a first down.
2:07: On first down, Cutler throws the ball high to Royal, and it bounces off the leaping rookie’s hands out of bounds.
On second down, Bell picks up a yard on a run, setting up third-and-9. The crowd is intense. Cutler is in the shotgun and Scheffler goes in motion left to right. He’s got all day and finds Scheffler — but the tight end is taken down before picking up the first.
It’s fourth down at the Denver 42, and Kern is on the field to punt. Sproles is back for the Chargers. There’s good coverage on the punt, and Sproles is taken down after only about eight yards on the return.
The Chargers offense takes over at its own 28-yard line.
0:30: Rivers drops back on first down and finds a streaking Antonio Gates behind the defense, and Bailey takes him down at the Denver 38-yard line. That ends the quarter.
The Chargers lead the Broncos 10-6.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com