Broncos hold off Chargers' rally by a fingertip in opener

The Denver Broncos survived their home opener by a fingertip, besting the Chargers 24-21 in a wild, late-night affair. *Here's what we learned from the game...*

  1. If you went to bed a little early, it's a scene worth watching even if you know the result: Two minutes to go, an animated Philip Rivers with the ball and a chance to win or tie. After getting the ball to their own 47-yard line thanks to a quick dump-off to Melvin Gordon and a flick over the middle to Antonio Gates, the Chargers are forced to take their final timeout with 42 seconds remaining -- but not before almost 15 seconds are drained off the clock amid some confusion (the crowd in Denver was noticeable even from the most volume deprived television sets Monday). Gordon converts the first on the ground. Rivers, on the next play, catches Denver corner Bradley Roby climbing over his receiver and draws the flag. Then, he hits Keenan Allen on a suspiciously wide open route allowing him to jog comfortably out of bounds.

Younghoe Koo, the Chargers kicker, drills a game-tying 44-yard field goal, but not before Broncos coach Vance Joseph gets the last-second timeout off -- an icing attempt. A play later, Shelby Harris, a 26-year-old former seventh-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, shoves his way past a blocker and gets his right fingertip on Koo's second attempt, forcing it to ricochet off to the left.

  1. I think both Anthony Lynn and Vance Joseph -- brand-new, first-time head coaches without lengthy coordinator stints on their resumes -- learned a ton. Joseph got a little too conservative with a 24-7 lead despite watching quarterback Trevor Siemian (17 of 28, 219 yards, two touchdowns, one INT) make some of the most mature plays of his career to date. Lynn, meanwhile, watched his Chargers struggle with the deafening noise, and watched his coaching staff call plays that took Rivers (22 of 33, 192 yards, three touchdowns and one INT) in and out of control. At this point, it looks like both are good enough to keep their teams interesting until December.
  1. It was awesome to hear play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins make history on Monday night. Take it away...

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for Mowins' reception of the 2015 Marty Glickman Award for Leadership in Sports Media and couldn't help but be inspired by her relentless drive back then. Two years later, on a night that could -- and should -- open doors for anyone who loves the game, Mowins was as good as it gets.

3a. As good as Mowins was, Rex Ryan's debut in the booth will be a major storyline. I was surprised, personally, by his approach. Having covered Ryan, hearing him speak anecdotally about football was entertaining and informative. His ability to recognize the complexities of NFL defenses or dip into his pocket for a good story were uncanny. Even during a televised preseason trial run with Mowins, Ryan flashed the ability to call out a blitz in progress or a shifting coverage. Given the meteoric rise of Tony Romo after just one week, that ability could have earned Ryan some kudos. Instead, I felt he leaned on some old clichés. Ryan was awkward at times and unexpectedly quiet at others. He shied away from the persona he crafted for himself over the last decade. Everyone gets better with reps, but Ryan might be closer to finding success again on the sideline.

  1. Regardless of who is calling the shots in Denver defensively, this unit is still one of the best three in football. With Von Miller double- and triple-teamed all night, the Broncos still rattled off six quarterback hits and a sack. Joseph was gashing Los Angeles where it hurt: up the middle when Rivers wouldn't have time to react. We saw a lot of the Chargers' quarterback wheeling away from the pocket, flinging the ball out of bounds.
  1. Not to be outdone, 1.5 sacks each for Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa got to the quarterback twice while Ingram tallied four quarterback hits. The tandem was especially beastly in the opening moments of the game, when just about any replacement-level tackle in the NFL is going to struggle to handle them one on one without a chip.
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