DENVER – The rookie head coach iced the rookie kicker.
Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo’s 44-yard game-tying field goal try with a second left and the Denver Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.
“It was a little too exciting,” Von Miller said after presenting Joseph with the game ball in the jubilant locker room. “But a win is a win.”
Koo nailed the kick moments earlier, but Joseph had called a timeout to ice the kicker.
“I had two timeouts and I wasn’t going to leave with those in my pocket,” Joseph said.
Derek Wolfe had bull-rushed the first field goal and told Harris, a third-year journeyman who made the team largely because of a rash of injuries along the D-line, that he’d get a chance to slice through this time because the guard would lean his way.
Sure enough, Harris got his right hand on the ball, which frittered short of the end zone as the Chargers looked on in dismay and the Broncos dog-piled Harris.
“It’s too bad because Koo drilled the first one,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “And they called timeout and I think he drilled the second one, too. At least, that’s what it looked like to me because it was going right down the middle. And I think if we get to OT, we would have finished it off, but we didn’t get that chance.”
Harris got the start only because Jared Crick and Zach Kerr were out with injuries.
“I’m going to be real with you: I have no clue what happened,” Harris said of his heroics. “I felt it. I just couldn’t tell you where I felt it.”
Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter in this opener and the Broncos were feeling pretty good.
Then came a nightmarish eight-minute stretch in which they had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.
“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.
Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.
Denver held Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled .
Rivers threw touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin following the takeaways to make it 24-21.
Vikings 29, Saints 19
In Minneapolis, Sam Bradford started his second season with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings beat New Orleans and spoil Adrian Peterson’s first game with the Saints.