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(Monday, October 19th)
Final Score: Denver 34, San Diego 23
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Eddie Royal became the first player in Broncos history to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same game, as Denver beat San Diego, 34-23, in an AFC West clash from Qualcomm Stadium.
Royal returned a kickoff 93 yards and a punt 71 yards to paydirt for the Broncos (6-0), who are off to their first 6-0 start since 1998. Kyle Orton threw for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20-of-29 efficiency, while Correll Buckhalter gained 46 yards on 10 carries.
Tony Scheffler totaled 101 yards and a TD on six grabs in the win, while Brandon Stokley also had a touchdown catch.
Philip Rivers racked up 274 yards and a score on 20-of-33 passing but was also sacked five times for the Chargers (2-3), who have lost two in a row. LaDainian Tomlinson had 70 yards on 18 carries, and Vincent Jackson hauled in a TD pass.
"We're going to go back to work and focus on getting better," said Tomlinson. "We got to play our game and take it one game at a time.
Trailing by a point late in the third stanza, the Chargers were driving. Facing a 3rd-and-3 from midfield, Rivers was sacked by Elvis Dumervil and fumbled the ball. Denver recovered and took over at the Chargers 47-yard-line for a drive that bridged the final two quarters.
The trek stalled at the 11, though, and Denver settled for a 29-yard field goal from Matt Prater that made it a four-point game, 27-23, with about 13 minutes left to play.
The next two drives resulted in punts and San Diego started at its 20 with just under eight minutes left. On 3rd-and-4, Rivers went deep for Jackson to no avail but Andre Goodman was called for pass interference and the ball was advanced to the Denver 40. Tomlinson gained two yards on first down but the next two plays resulted in incompletions. Faced with a 4th-and-2 from the 38, Rivers dropped back and threw for Malcolm Floyd over the middle but it was incomplete and the Broncos got the ball back.
On 2nd-and-8 from their own 40, Scheffler hauled in a pass from Orton in the short right and took it 52 yards down the sideline to the eight. Three plays later, Orton hit Stokley at the goal line for a touchdown that ballooned the difference to 34-23 with just under three minutes left.
Starting at the 23, San Diego advanced the ball to its 46 at the two-minute warning thanks to a 17- and an 18-yard completion by Rivers. Five plays later it was 4th-and-21 from the Denver 37; opting for the field goal, Nate Kaeding sent the kick wide left to effectively seal the result.
"That was a hard-fought game, give credit to San Diego. We were fortunate to have two big returns by Eddie," said Denver head coach Josh McDaniels. "Very happy to get a division win on the road. A credit to our players for sticking in there and playing 60 minutes."
Both teams punted on their first possession, and the Chargers got the ball back with just under six minutes left at their own six. After Rivers converted on third down, he threw for 51 yards combined on the next three plays. The drive eventually stalled at the Denver two, and San Diego took a 3-0 lead on a 20-yard Kaeding field goal.
Royal, though, returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to give the visitors a 7-3 edge.
The Chargers answered with an eight-play, 74-yard drive that was closed out on Jackson's three-yard TD catch. The drive made it 10-3 with six seconds left in the first.
Prater nailed a 34-yard field goal midway through the second and, after the Chargers went three-and-out, Royal returned the punt 71 yards to give the Broncos a 17-10 advantage.
"Our guys did a great job of blocking for Eddie," said McDaniels. "We know we got a good returner...We take what they give us."
Kaeding then hit on a 44-yard field goal and Darren Sproles later returned a punt 77 yards to the end zone to make it 20-17 heading into the break.
"It was a back-and-forth deal," said Rivers. "They came out bringing it. We have to get over this...we have to make sure collectively we move past this."
The Broncos were stopped on their first possession of the second half, and the Chargers took over at their own 20 following the punt. The home team drove down before the drive stalled at the Denver 32, where Kaeding booted a 50- yarder to make it 23-17 with about eight minutes left in the third.
Denver responded with a 77-yard drive that lasted 4:14 and was closed out as Scheffler hauled in a 19-yard TD pass from Orton on the right side of the end zone.
"We're happy with what Kyle Orton does in our offense, we're happy to have him," McDaniels added.
The Chargers had won three straight against Denver and had 2-0 record vs. the Broncos on Monday night...Rivers had completed 81-of-119 passes for 1,332 yards and 10 TDs to one interception in his past five against Denver coming in. He was 4-0 on Monday nights...Tomlinson was aiming for his seventh straight game with a TD on Monday night...Dumervil recorded two sacks and now has an NFL-best 10 on the season...Kaeding's 50-yard field goal in the third quarter was his first 50-plus yard attempt of the season...Royal's TD kickoff return was the first for Denver since October 1, 2000: Deltha O'Neal vs. New England (87 yards); and the longest since December 12, 1998: Vaughn Hebron at Miami (95 yards). It was the ninth in franchise history. His punt return TD was the first since Glenn Martinez vs. Tennessee on November 19, 2007 (80 yards) and the longest punt return since November 16, 2003 (65 yards) : Rod Smith vs. San Diego...The Broncos lead the all-time series with San Diego, 54-44-1...San Diego has now won five of the last seven in the series, and had won three straight at home prior to Monday. The Broncos had last won at Qualcomm Stadium in 2005.
10/20 00:34:00 ET