Broncos hold on to beat Chargers, 24-21 in thrilling opener

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 11: Bennie Fowler #16 celebrates a touchdown catch with offensive tackle Garett Bolles #72 of the Denver Broncos in the first quarter of the game abasing the Los Angeles Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 11, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

DENVER (KWGN) — The Broncos opened the 2017 regular season with a nail-biter victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Shelby Harris blocked a field-goal attempt with a second to play as the Broncos held on for a 24-21 victory over their longtime AFC West rival.

“It was a little too exciting,” linebacker Von Miller said after presenting rookie coach Vance Joseph with the game ball. “But a win is a win.”

The Broncos dominated the first three quarters and built a 24-7 lead. But the Chargers came back and were in position to send the game to overtime.

Chargers rookie kicker Younghoe Koo’s first 44-yard attempt went through the uprights, but Joseph called timeout just before the snap.

“I had two timeouts and I wasn’t going to leave with those in my pocket,” Joseph said.

On the second attempt, Harris got past Chargers linemen and stretched his right arm, timing his leap perfectly to get a hand on the ball.

The ball landed in the back of the end zone as the Broncos celebrated the win.

“It feels great to do anything to help the team win. It’s not about the individual glory,” Harris said. “It takes two to do that, though, and so I couldn’t have done it without (Derek) Wolfe though. That’s a big moment right there.”

Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 17 of 28 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and he ran in another score.

But the Broncos nearly blew winning their 16th home opener in the past 17 years when the Chargers scored two touchdowns in 70 seconds off turnovers to cut the deficit to 24-21.

After a drive stalled, quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers got a final chance to win or send the game to overtime until Harris’ big play.

After the Broncos’ first drive stalled and Siemian had a potential pick-six dropped by the Chargers, the Broncos were able to strike first.

C.J. Anderson put the Broncos in Chargers territory and Siemian threw to Jeff Heuerman for a 20-yard pass.

After a slightly overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, Siemian connected with Bennie Fowler for the first touchdown of the season, giving the Broncos a 7-0 lead.

The Broncos’ dominance continued in the third quarter. Siemian found Demaryius Thomas to help the move the Broncos down the field and set up first-and-goal.

After an Anderson touchdown was called back, Siemian connected with Fowler again for the touchdown to make it 21-7.

Sanders and Jamaal Charles made big plays on the next drive for the Broncos offense. Charles brought the Broncos to the 1-yard line for first-and-goal.

But the Chargers defense was able to hold the Broncos to a  20-yard field goal from Brandon McManus to make it 24-7 at the end of the third quarter.

The Broncos defense forced a turnover on downs as Todd Davis made a huge stop on Gordon on a Chargers fourth-and-1 to give the Broncos possession at midfield.

Things quickly turned bad for the Broncos, though. Siemian attempted to throw to Fowler and it bounced off a foot, causing an interception.

That set up a Chargers touchdown from Keenan Allen, cutting the Broncos’ lead to 24-14.

Allen was flagged on the play for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting, giving the Broncos better field position. But it didn’t matter.

Charles dropped the ball after being stopped on an 8-yard gain and the Chargers recovered.

It set up a touchdown from Rivers to Travis Benjamin to put the Chargers within three, 24-21.

The Broncos offense attempted to turn things around with a 44-yard reception from Virgil Green. But the Chargers defense stuck it to them again with back-to-back sacks of Siemian.

It backed the Broncos up and McManus missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt.

“The game was in firm control for about three quarters there and we felt good, but you turn the ball over twice on the short side of the 50, it’s going to be a problem with Philip Rivers,” Joseph said.

The Chargers then drove into field-goal position before the last-second heroics of Harris.

“As far as Trevor, he played very well outside of the turnover in the fourth quarter. He was poised. He was smart at the line of scrimmage for us tonight, accurate with the football,” Joseph said.

“I learned pretty quickly nothing is certain, especially when you’re playing a guy like Philip Rivers on the other sideline,” Siemian said. “Down the stretch there, I think offensively we could have made a few more plays to help our defense out. But, shoot, a win’s a win. We’ll take it however we can get it.”