Emmanuel Sanders’ big night propels Denver Broncos past San Diego Chargers, 35-21


Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) pulls in his third touchdown catch past San Diego Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright (29) in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos took care of business at Sports Authority Field, defeating the division rival San Diego Chargers by the final score of 35-21. With the win, Denver improved to 6-1 on the season while San Diego fell to 5-3.

21. 13. Final. 35. 45

The first half had the feeling of a playoff game in October. Both defenses were stout and held each other scoreless for the first two drives. Denver finally got something going on their third drive thanks in part to Emmanuel Sanders. On Denver’s first play, Peyton Manning connected with Sanders for an 38-yard strike, moving Denver to San Diego’s 31 yard line. As Denver reached the two yard line on 3rd and goal, Manning hit Sanders yet again for the two-yard touchdown — putting Denver up 7-0 with 13:15 remaining in the second quarter.

Denver’s defense was strong, very strong in fact. They were all over San Diego’s screen pass to Branden Oliver, bottling him up for a loss of two. On third and seven from Denver’s 39 yard line, Von Miller recorded a sack on Phillip Rivers to force a punt. Denver didn’t take advantage of it however, as they were held to a three-and-out.

Fourth time was the charm for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers led a 13 play, 84-yard drive which lasted almost eight minutes. Rivers hit wide receiver Keenan Allen for the three-yard touchdown pass; a drive in which Keenan Allen accounted for 28 yards of the offense. With the score, San Diego tied it all up at seven with just 3:07 remaining in the first half.

Denver stampeded right back as Peyton Manning hooked up with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker for a couple of seven yard strikes. After failing to convert the first down on the ground on 2nd and 1, Manning connected with the man of the hour, Emmanuel Sanders, burning Richard Marshall for a 30-yard touchdown. Denver went into the half up 14-7 — which was huge with San Diego receiving after the half.

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On San Diego’s first possession of the second half, Phillip Rivers pass to the left side was intercepted by none-other than Chris Harris Jr. With that interception, Harris is up to two interceptions on the season. Denver made sure to convert on the drive with Manning connecting with Emmanuel Sanders for his third touchdown grab of the night — a three yard touchdown pass putting Denver up 21-7.

Denver’s defense was at it again. After Marvin Austin committed a personal foul which gave San Diego a first down, Denver stopped Phillip Rivers, forcing San Diego to punt. On Denver’s ensuing possession, Peyton Manning led them all the way down to the two with a trio of passes to Demaryius Thomas. Juwan Thomson capped off the drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown from the fullback position, extending Denver’s lead to 21 — scoring 21 unanswered points.

San Diego was in a score now situation, doing just that. Denver seemingly had stopped San Diego on a 3rd & 1 from the 9, but rookie  corner Bradley Roby was flagged for defensive holding – giving the Chargers an automatic first down. San Diego took advantage of it as Rivers hit Antonio Gates on a five-yard touchdown pass in which he looked like he pushed off. San Diego cut Denver’s lead to a two score game, 28-14.

Denver’s offense really clicked in the second half as Juwan Thompson scored his second rushing touchdown of the game; again from the full back position. Denver took the 35-14 lead with 13:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. On San Diego’s next drive, Denver’s defense sort of played a conservative zone defense, backing off on coverage. San Diego marched all the way down to Denver’s side of the field as Phillip Rivers had Antonio Gates in one-on-one coverage against T.J. Ward, hauling down the touchdown pass as Denver led 35-21 with 9:31 remaining in the fourth.

Denver and their fans suffered a scary moment on their ensuing possession. As Manning hit Sanders on a bubble screen, Chargers safety Eric Weddle came up from behind and punched the ball out. Luckily for Denver, Wes Welker was there to secure the loose ball. On fourth down, John Fox elected to go for a 53-yard field goal attempt with Brandon McManus; who was nursing a groin injury earlier in the week. McManus’ attempt just went wide left, turning the ball over on downs as San Diego had pretty good field position to work with.

Phillip Rivers made a bad mistake on San Diego’s next possession. Rivers sent a deep ball down the field to Malcolm Floyd who was bottled up by Aqib Talib. As the ball neared, Rahim Moore came over from the safety position and intercepted the pass, handing the ball right back to Denver at their own four yard line. Denver essentially milked the clock, earning the 35-21 victory.

The Denver Broncos (6-1) hit the road as they begin a three-game road trip. Denver will play the New England Patriots on Nov. 2nd at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 PM EST, 2:25 PM MST on CBS.