For the sixth time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Chargers finished the regular season with a 12-4 record. Los Angeles forced a season-high four turnovers in their 23-9 victory over the Denver Broncos Sunday at Mile High Stadium, a place they haven’t won in since 2013.
“It was a good way to end the 2018 season, 12-4,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Our intentions were to win them all, but I believe the four we lost made us a better football team, especially going into this tournament next week.”
Philip Rivers started for the 208th consecutive game for the Chargers at quarterback, tying Peyton Manning for the third-longest starting streak by a quarterback in NFL history.
Rivers did not have his best game, going 14 of 24 for 176 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions in the first quarter against a gritty Broncos (6-10) defense.
The Chargers locked up the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs and will go in as a wild-card next weekend and travel to Baltimore. Just last Sunday, the Ravens (10-6) made a huge statement and defeated the Chargers 22-10 behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“It’s a heck of a challenge,” Rivers said on the upcoming rematch against Baltimore. “I don’t think there was a team that wasn’t going to be a heck of a challenge. They’re all good. That team outplayed us last week and it will be a new game, new everything. We’ll see who can play the best this time.”
Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel sparked the team with an 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown with five minutes left in the second quarter.
“I thought the defense played outstanding, got some critical turnovers, created some points (and got us) good field position,” said Lynn.
Los Angeles wide receiver Mike Williams finished with five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, while tailbacks, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 100 yards on 18 carriers and a touchdown.
Already leading 7-3 late in the third quarter, Rivers connected with Williams for a three-yard touchdown strike to go up 14-3.
However, early in the fourth quarter, Denver responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass by Case Keenum to Andy Janovich.
Keenum finished 31 of 48 for 292 yards and a touchdown and interception.
On the very next play, the Broncos failed to convert the two-point conversion, as Casey Hayward made the play of game and intercepted Keenum for the “pick-two” on a 102-yard score into the end zone.
“It’s all about winning,” Hayward said on the defense picking up the Chargers struggling offense. “If we can win ugly all the way to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter to us. We just want to win.”
With only 5:48 left in game, Los Angeles seemingly put the game away after Ekeler ran in a one-yard score to give the Chargers a 23-9 lead.
Even with the win, the Chargers know they must correct their mistakes on the offensive side of the ball to make a playoff run. Rivers has had a stellar season all year long, being picked off only six times through 13 games, but of late, the future hall of famer has thrown six interceptions over the last three games.
“Some of those same throws we’re big, explosive plays for us early in the year,” stated Lynn. “Now, we’re not making those plays. We have to make better throws. We have to go up and challenge for balls and make plays.”
The good news for the Chargers is they’re tied with No.1 seed NFC champion New Orleans Saints (13-3), for the best road record in the NFL at (7-1).
A visit to M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore should pose positivity for the road-tested Chargers group.
Kick-off for the AFC wild-card game against the Ravens is scheduled for Sunday at 10:05 a.m.