The Chargers outgained the Broncos, 479 yards to 325, led 26-16 in first downs and 37:49-22:11 in time of possession.
However, the Chargers committed both of the game’s turnovers — on two Philip Rivers interceptions — and were penalized 14 times for 120 yards.
“More games in this league are lost than won, and today we lost that one,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said after his team’s six-game winning streak ended. “Fourteen penalties for 120 yards — you have to be kidding me.
“Those are things we’ve stayed away from — penalties and turnovers — but they showed up today. For whatever reason, I don’t know.”
The Chargers (7-3) had a chance to run out the clock after a 7-yard gain by Melvin Gordon gave them a second-and-three on Denver’s 44-yard line with two minutes, 39 seconds to play.
However, the Chargers were forced to punt after Rivers was tackled for a 4-yard loss on a play there was a miscommunication between him and Gordon and a third-down screen pass fell incomplete.
“I wish I had held on to it, just took the sack and ran the time off,” Rivers said.
The Broncos (4-6) began the winning drive on their own 8-yard line with 1:51 left and no timeouts remaining following Donnie Jones’ 40-yard punt.
Emmanuel Sanders turned a short pass from Case Keenum on the second play into a 38-yard gain, advancing the ball to the Chargers 49-yard line.
Two plays and an offensive pass interference play later, Denver was facing a third-and-seven from the Chargers 46-yard line when Keenum threw a 30- yard pass to Courtland Summer giving the Broncos a first down on the Chargers 16-yard line with four seconds remaining.
Keenum spiked the ball to allow the field goal team to take the field. The Chargers called timeout in what would prove to be an unsuccessful attempt to rattle McManus.
McManus missed a 51-yard field goal attempt on the final play of Denver’s previous game, a 19-17 loss to the Houston Texans.
The Chargers regained the lead on Michael Badgley’s 30-yard field goal with 6:47 left before a crowd announced at 25,462.
The Broncos took their second lead on rookie running back Phillip Lindsay’s 2-yard touchdown run with 12:17 to play, four plays after Keenum’s 39- yard pass to Sutton gave Denver a first down at the Chargers 15-yard line.
Denver also scored a touchdown on its previous possession on a 3-yard run by Royce Freeman, three plays after a Rivers pass was intercepted by outside linebacker Von Miller at the Broncos 40-yard line and he returned it 42 yards to the Chargers 18-yard line.
“If I would have found a way to make a better throw and get it around there (to Gordon) somehow, it’s probably a touchdown,” Rivers said.
Denver had a “pressure” defensive play called, Rivers said.
“It was really the perfect call (against us),” Rivers said.
Rivers completed 28 of 43 passes for 401 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen in the second quarter and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the third.
Badgley missed the extra point after Gates’ touchdown, leaving the Chargers ahead 19-17.
Rivers has thrown two or more touchdown passes in 11 consecutive games dating back to last season, a team record.
Keenum completed 19 of 32 passes for 205 yards as the Broncos ended a stretch of six losses in seven games.
The Chargers led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter on Badgley’s 46- yard field goal on their first possession and 45-yarder on their second.
Lindsay ran 41 yards for Denver’s first touchdown 12:05 before halftime, one play after rookie Colby Wadman threw a 12-yard pass to Andy Janovich out of punt formation.
“I didn’t have any adrenaline because I knew it was such a short pass,” Wadman said. “I knew I was just going to catch, roll out and just dump it to Andy. There was really no adrenaline at all because I knew it was going to work. It had worked all week in practice so going in I was just pretty confident and prepared for it.”
Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget suffered a knee injury in the second quarter that Lynn expects will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa made one tackle and had one quarterback hurry in his 2018 debut. He had missed each of the previous nine games because of an injured left foot.
Bosa was a Pro Bowl selection in 2017, leading the Chargers with 99 tackles and finishing seventh in the NFL with 12.5 quarterback sacks.
“I thought he looked good from the sideline,” Lynn said. “On a couple snaps I saw him edge rush, but I’ll know more when I watch the tape.”
— City News Service
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