DENVER — They began the game in the worst of all positions — their one-yard line — looking at a destination that couldn’t have been farther away.
That desperate starting point proved to be fitting on an all-uphill day when the Chargers set out on a reasonable enough journey but instead came up well short.
Too many crushing mistakes, blown opportunities and empty possessions doomed them in a 28-13 loss to Denver.
“We had a chance to make winning plays today,” coach Brandon Staley said, “and we didn’t make enough of them.”
The loss dropped the Chargers to 6-5, leaving them in a three-way tie for second place in the AFC West, one game behind Kansas City.
They fell behind 14-0 barely 17 minutes into the game when their offense generated nothing and their defense made enough errors to escort the Broncos into the end zone.
The Chargers went three-and-out on their opening two series, leading to Denver’s initial scoring drives. Trailing 14-0, the Chargers had been outgained in total yards, 157-16.
On defense, they allowed Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to scramble 11 yards for a touchdown and then couldn’t stop the running back duo of Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams as Denver pounded its way downfield.
Facing third-and-goal at the nine, the Broncos ran the ball again and Williams scored — Staley: “That was a killer.” — to make it a two-touchdown difference. At that point, the Broncos had all 12 of the game’s first downs.
The latter series included a pair of cruel near-misses for the Chargers. A blitzing Derwin James Jr. sacked Bridgewater to cause a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Kyzir White. A replay review, however, ruled the play an incompletion.