CARSON, Calif. (AP) — When the Chargers decided to return to Los Angeles this season after 56 years in San Diego, they suspected they might face a hostile crowd in every game they played. Halfway through their first season, their home gatherings at StubHub Center have all featured huge cheering sections for their opponents.
Although the Denver Broncos had at least as much support as the Chargers on a sweltering Sunday, those orange-clad fans were crushed on a historic day for both franchises.
For the first time since Dec. 18, 1960, the Los Angeles Chargers won a home game.
And they did it by sending their AFC West rivals to their first shutout loss in nearly a quarter-century.
Travis Benjamin returned a first-quarter punt 65 yards for a touchdown and caught a 42-yard TD pass in the fourth, and the Chargers played a dominant defensive game in the first home victory of their relocation season, 21-0 over the Broncos on Sunday.
Bosa and Chris McCain each had two of the Chargers’ five sacks while Los Angeles’ defense forced three turnovers and flattened Trevor Siemian and the Broncos (3-3), who hadn’t been blanked since a 24-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders on Nov. 22, 1992. Denver had scored in 394 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL and the second-longest in league history.
The Chargers (3-4) are hoping there’s nothing like making a little history to get the home fans on your side.
Los Angeles won three straight under new coach Anthony Lynn following a winless opening month in front of stadiums filled predominantly with unfriendly fans. The players have turned the less-than-ideal situation in the StubHub stands into a challenge to win over locals with prior rooting interests.
“We just said, ‘Let’s not even let that be an issue,'” said Philip Rivers, who passed for 183 yards in his 100th victory. “I don’t think it was in any way a reason why we lost those (first) three (home) games, but it certainly took a little getting used to. … It’s just going to take some time working here until we’re in a stadium that is dominated by Charger blue.”
Cornerback Casey Hayward recalled what defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told the Chargers on Saturday.
“(Bradley) said, ‘No matter if there are 10 Charger fans, let’s play for the 10 Charger fans,'” said Hayward, who had an interception. “‘There can be 20,000 Bronco fans, and let’s play for the 10 of ours.’ At the end of the game, you could tell our fans were here. All of the Bronco fans were sitting down, and we had our fans standing up.”
Siemian passed for 207 yards, but the Broncos have lost three of four with a flagging offense that has managed three touchdowns in four games, capped by this historic goose egg.
They might have been able to preserve their non-shutout streak with long field goals in the fourth quarter, but coach Vance Joseph went for it twice on fourth down and ended up with an interception and a turnover on downs.
“It wasn’t simply on Trevor,” Joseph said. “I felt up until five minutes to go, it was a game we could have won. … We’re not blocking well. We’re not protecting well. We had some good plays called again today. We had some guys wide open. We’re just not hitting the passes. It’s puzzling.”
While Bosa and Melvin Ingram get plenty of deserved attention, McCain has five sacks this season after harassing Siemian and even forcing two fumbles. The Chargers frequently looked unblockable up front while Bradley could be aggressive with a lead.
“It was fun to watch our defense play,” Rivers said. “Man, they were awesome.”
Chargers punter Drew Kaser uncorked one of the most beautiful punts you’ll ever see in the third quarter. The kick went 69 yards on the fly, came down at the 1 and bounced sideways twice before Ekeler downed it at the 1. Kaser celebrated by miming a two-handed home run swing.
Von Miller sacked Rivers twice. He has 80 1/2 sacks in his career, reaching the mark in fewer games (94) than any NFL player except Reggie White (70). Miller moved past Karl Mecklenburg for second place in Broncos history in sacks behind Simon Fletcher. Miller has sacked Rivers 16 times.
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