The memorable ride of the young coaching career of Josh McDaniels took another big step forward Monday night in San Diego, as his Denver Broncos moved to 6-0 on the season with a tough 34-23 victory over the now 2-3 San Diego Chargers.
McDaniels, who took tons of heat this offseason for moving franchise QB Jay Cutler to the Bears, now is the one laughing last. He rebuilt the team with defense in mind, along with a more ball control offense led by QB Kyle Orton running the show.
He got lots of help Monday night from another unit – the special teams. Kicker returner Eddie Royal returned not one, but two kicks back for scores in the 11-point win. The first was a 93-yard kickoff return that erased a 3-0 Chargers lead. The second came after the Chargers tied the game at 10, and was a 71-yard punt return.
The Chargers took a 20-17 lead at the half, as they had some special plays of their own as Darren Sproles took back a kick 77 yards. The Broncos, who had dominated teams in the second half of their first five games, did it again against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
San Diego started the second half with a field goal to make it 23-17, but it would be the last points they would get on the physical Broncos defense. The remainder of the night they had just 95 yards on four series, fumbling once, doing down once on downs, punting once, and missing a field goal to seal the Broncos win.
They put massive pressure on Rivers, and seemed to have an answer for LaDainian Tomlinson. The Broncos offense rallied, with Orton playing pitch and catch with tight end Tony Scheffler, who scored on a highlight 19-yard catch to make it 24-23. He then pulled in a huge 52-yard catch with five minutes left to set up the final Broncos TD to ice the game.
Orton was 20-for-29 for 229 yards with two TD’s and a QB rating of 115.4. Scheffler had six grabs for 101 yards with a score, and the Broncos outgained San Diego 328 to 311. It really was the Denver shutdown D in the second half that paved the way for them to walk out of San Diego with their first 6-0 mark since 1998.