The Broncos look to end a streak of four-straight losses to the Chargers dating back to 2009 while the Chargers look to end a streak of five-straight losses this season dating back to the last time these two teams met, when San Diego withstood late-game heroics from Tebow to scrape by with a 29-24 win.
To date, nearly all of the matchups between these two teams have been pivotal and closely contested, and here’s a look at some of this rivalry's best moments:
1. “First Blood”: October 16th, 1960—Chargers 23, Broncos 19
The year 1960 marked the inaugural season for the then Los Angeles Chargers.
The Broncos weren’t very good during those early years, so they took positives from games where they weren’t blown out, such as this one.
The game was a kicker’s duel between the “toeless wonder” Ben Agajanian of the Chargers, and Gene Mingo, professional football’s first African-American placekicker. Thirty of the game’s 42 points were scored by the kickers.
The new kids on the block quickly learned to be bullies by winning their first AFL West Division crown that year, before moving on to be defeated by the Houston Oilers in the AFL Championship.
2. “The Kick Block”: November 17th, 1985—Broncos 30, Chargers 24
One Hall of Famer was towards the end of his career, while another was beginning his during the Elway-Fouts shootouts of the 1980s between the Broncos and Chargers.
Elway, of course led another one of his famed fourth quarter drives to send the game to overtime on a Rich Karlis field goal.
In overtime, however, it looked like the Chargers would have the last laugh as they lined up for a 24-yard game-winning field goal in OT.
Broncos’ player Dennis Smith blocked the first attempt, only to find out that Denver had called timeout.
On the second attempt Smith again blocked the field goal, this time watching teammate Louis Wright return the ball 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
3. “Bailey’s Bail Out”: September 18th, 2005—Broncos 20, Chargers 17
Entering halftime, the Chargers had a 14-3 lead and seemed poised to take the division lead early in the season from the 1-1 Broncos.
Denver hadn’t moved the ball much to that point, and the fans at Mile High had begun to rain down the boos.
With the offense not scoring touchdowns, cornerback Champ Bailey decided to take it into his own hands, literally, as he intercepted a Philip Rivers pass and took it 25 yards back for Denver’s first end-zone romp of the game.
The play energized the Broncos in the game, and they went on to win by a final score of 20-17. It also rejuvenated their season, as they finished 13-3 with their first division title and AFC Championship game appearance since the retirement of John Elway.
4. “The Royal Treatment”: October 19th, 2009—Broncos 34, Chargers 23
It was Josh McDaniels’ first year as head coach of the Denver Broncos, and the team was off to a stellar 5-0 start after some offseason drama that ended in the trade of starting quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago. Another young talent, Eddie Royal, was underused in the new offense, but showed he had game-changing ability on special teams.
In the first quarter, Royal returned a kickoff 93 yards for Denver’s first score and a 7-3 lead. The Broncos once again took a 17-10 lead later in the first half when Royal returned a punt 74 yards for the score.
Then-Charger Darren Sproles showed his own special teams flash when he closed out the first half with a 77-yard punt return score.
Ultimately it was the Denver defense which helped seal the 34-23 victory by holding San Diego to just three points in the second half. But the point differential in the win was largely due to Royal’s two first half special teams touchdowns.
5. “The Blown Call”: September 14th, 2008—Broncos 39, Chargers 38
The Broncos had driven to the Chargers’ 1-yard-line with 52 seconds left in the game and the score at 38-31 in favor of the Chargers. On a “tuck rule”-type play, then-Broncos' quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball but it was ruled an incomplete pass by NFL referee Ed Hochuli.
Cutler completed a touchdown pass to rookie Eddie Royal two plays later on 4th-and-goal from the 4-yard line to cut the score to 38-37. But instead of going for overtime, Broncos' head coach Mike Shanahan decided to play with house money and go for the two-point conversion. It was good, and the Broncos came away with the one point victory.
This game would later come back to haunt both Hochuli and the Broncos. A few days later, Hochuli admitted it was a missed call and to receiving hate mail. The Broncos would later lose in a 52-21 rout by the Chargers in the last game of the 2008 season, knocking them out of contention for a playoff berth.
Yet again the Chargers would have the last laugh, however, finishing with a 13-3 record and winning another AFC West title, while the Broncos faltered the rest of the way, ultimately finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
Will Tim Tebow finally lead the Broncos to a comeback victory over the Chargers in his third attempt? Or will Philip Rivers' accuracy come back instead, returning San Diego to the win column?
A new chapter in this saga will be written this afternoon.
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