CARSON, Calif. — Out of timeouts, running out of time (1:51 remaining) and way out of field goal range (their 8-yard line), the Broncos felt confident about rallying against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Despite the awful field position.
Despite leaning on an offensive line with new starters at three positions.
And, most importantly, despite their misfortune in close games.
But as long as a team has time, it has hope.
Quarterback Case Keenum completed passes of 38 and 30 yards to receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton, respectively, the second play ending with 12 seconds remaining. The Broncos rushed downfield and Keenum spiked the football with three seconds left, allowing Brandon McManus to connect on a 34-yard field goal as time expired for a thrilling 23-22 win over the previously-surging Chargers.
At 4-6 and with only two wins in their last eight games, the Broncos are far from doing anything special. But by starting the post-bye portion of their schedule with a win, it makes the next game (Sunday vs. Pittsburgh) a tad more interesting.
"It's fun to win," coach Vance Joseph said. "We expect to win. I don't think the guys in the locker room are really surprised."
Credit the Broncos: They have showed a resolve when some NFL teams would have already started counting down to locker room clean-out day. To Joseph's point, the Broncos are expected to play hard. To counter Joseph's point, few expected them to play well ... much less win.
But their want-to was rewarded multiple times against the Chargers (7-3).
The Broncos fell behind 6-0, but used a fake punt to set a go-ahead score. They received a regular season interception from Von Miller for the first time in six years to help re-take the lead (20-19) with 12:17 remaining. And they made a rare third down stop to force the Chargers to punt after the two-minute warning.
Cue the madness.
Keenum five yards to tight end Jeff Heuerman started the drive. As the clock hit 1:20 remaining, Keenum looked right before returning to his left and throwing a dart to Sanders, who broke a tackle to gain 26 yards post-catch, down to the Chargers' 49.
And then adversity.
Keenum threw four yards to running back Devontae Booker and followed with a completion to Tim Patrick that was negated by his 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty but also stopped the clock (37 seconds remaining).
The Broncos were back at their 45-yard line. Keenum threw nine yards to tight end Matt LaCosse. Twelve seconds elapsed from the end of that play to the next play.
Lined up wide left, Sutton ran up-and-in route and caught Keenum's pass 16 yards downfield. He then gained an additional 14 to the Chargers' 16. Twelve seconds remained when Sutton was tackled.
The Broncos hustled up to the line and Keenum spiked the ball with three seconds remaining.
"We knew at that point how much time we needed when you snap the ball, complete a ball and then get down there and spike it," Keenum said. "We had just enough time. It was a great operation by everybody."
After Keenum's spike, Sutton and Sanders looked to the sidelines, jumped high and pumped their fists. Their job was done.
"It's one of those situations we practice a lot," Sutton said of getting lined up quickly and correctly.
McManus, two weeks after misfiring on a kick that would have beaten Houston, made this boot.