The Denver Broncos won the toss and deferred as the Chargers would receive. On their first possession, Denver’s Jeremy Mincey would get a hold of quarterback Phillip Rivers for a sack, setting up the Chargers for a long 3rd-and-17. The Chargers would run a draw play to Danny Woodhead who would end up getting his facemask pulled by defensive end Malik Jackson, setting up an automatic first-down. Denver would get another sack from former Charger Shaun Phillips as San Diego faced another 3rd-and-16. This time Rivers pass would go through the hands of Ronnie Brown forcing a punt.
The Denver Broncos first drive was impressive to say the least. Peyton Manning would face a 3rd-and-9 right away and completed the pass to tight-end Julius Thomas for a 16-yard gain. Manning would spread the wealth early as he completed another first-down pass, this time to Andre Caldwell for 15-yards. Manning would almost get picked off by Chargers defensive back Shareece Wright as he looked for Wes Welker who was double-covered. Montee Ball was a key player early for the Broncos, pounding the rock for two consecutive first-downs. Manning would find Demaryius Thomas on a 3-yard comeback route to put the Broncos up 7-0 early on a 14-play, 86-yard drive in 7:01. Manning was 6-of-8 for 64 yards, including the touchdown pass.
Denver’s defense came to play and the crowd noise bothered the Chargers. Phillip Rivers was in the shot-gun and his center failed to get the ball off in time which resulted in a delay-of-game, setting up the Chargers for another third-and-long. Rivers pass to rookie wide-out Keenan Allen would be incomplete setting up another Chargers punt. On Denver’s next possession, tight-end Julius Thomas looked to have the first-down but the ball would be popped out on a bang-bang hit. The refs would take a look at it and the play would stand as a fumble and recovered by San Diego.
Ryan Mathews who was questionable for the game with foot and ankle issues made a nice run after he appeared to be bottled up for a first-down run. San Diego would be in field-goal range for kicker Nick Novak as he attempted one from 53-yards out. Novak would slip as he approached the ball and his kick would just go slightly to the left as Denver got the ball back up 7-0. Manning was a master at drawing San Diego off-sides and he did so twice, collecting an extra ten yards. Manning would find slot-receiver Wes Welker for the 3-yard touchdown pass as Denver took a 14-0 lead.
The San Diego Chargers found themselves in another hole as they faced another 3rd-and-6 and Rivers pass would be broken up by Denver’s corner Dominique Rogers-Cromartie forcing another punt. Bronco’s return man Eric Decker looked to have a punt return for a touchdown but tripped on his own, but set the Broncos up in good field position at the 30-yard line. On a 3rd-and-1, Manning would get the Chargers to bite on yet another snap-count setting up the first-down. Knowshon Moreno‘s nine-yard rush set-up Denver for the 2nd-and-1 and the running back would get it again, resulting in the first-down. Denver would use their first time-out of the half with :40 seconds left in the half at San Diego’s 4-yard-line. On 3rd-and-Goal, Denver would spread four-wide as Manning’s pass to Eric Decker went off of his chest and deflected to Donald Butler for the interception. That would be Manning’s first pick in the red-zone this season as he had 39 touchdowns and 0 interceptions previously. The Chargers would take a knee for the remaining 30 seconds to take the game into the half.