At Sports Authority Field in Denver, in a windy win-or-go-home divisional game, the Chargers ended their postseason run.
It was a game where San Diego, who won five straight to get to this point, was shut out until the fourth quarter.
"We just didn't execute," said left tackle King Dunlap. "Not scoring until the fourth quarter, with a team like that and an offense like that, it just can't happen. You can't go three quarters against Peyton Manning without scoring a point."
San Diego's defense held Manning to 24 points, which is no small feat when facing the prolific quarterback. But Denver's defense stopped the run, something it didn't do when the Chargers won here in the regular season matchup, and it did a good job of pressuring Philip Rivers.
"Three times this year [the Broncos] didn't score over 30," River said after the game. "It was all three against the San Diego Chargers. Offensively, I take that responsibility that we should score 30. And we didn't."
The loss stings, but the season as a whole was a turnaround from the previous three seasons, when the Chargers failed to make the playoffs.
"We got nothing to be ashamed of," Rivers said." And when we fight together, when we play hard, when we compete, the character of this team -- you can hold your head high because you know you gave it your all. That doesn't mean you're happy, doesn't mean it's okay, but to bounce back from 5-7 and get to this position, that's nothing to be ashamed of."
Added running back Danny Woodhead: "We're all in this business to win a Super Bowl. Let's just be honest. Everyone's gonna be down, obviously. It's tough. But this group of guys … I wouldn't have wanted to experience this whole season with anyone else. It's an unbelievable group of guys, coaches, the whole organization."
Here's how the game went down:
The Broncos scored on their first possession of the game, driving 86 yards down the field and taking seven minutes off the clock, carving up San Diego's defense in the process.
A fumble by Broncos' tight end Julius Thomas (who was hit by Donald Butler and stripped by Jahleel Addae) in the second quarter gave San Diego the ball at its 44. The Broncos held the Chargers to a 53-yard field goal attempt, which was short by kicker Nick Novak, whose plant leg appeared to slip on the play.
A touchdown pass to Broncos' wide receiver Wes Welker with six minutes left in the second quarter widened the gap to 14-0, Denver. The Broncos nearly scored again before halftime, but Butler again made a big play when he intercepted the ball in San Diego's end zone, stopping the Broncos' drive and keeping the score at 14-0 going into the half.
The Broncos got the ball to start the second half and were able to score a 45-yard field goal at the end of a drive that took a little more than five minutes.
In the fourth quarter, the Chargers finally got on the board with a touchdown pass to Chargers' wide receiver Keenan Allen, who beat former San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer on the play.
Another touchdown by the Broncos with eight minutes remaining in the game (on a drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock) widened the gap to 24-7.
San Diego was able to score a touchdown on the following drive. Rivers found Allen again with a 16-yard pass bringing it to 24-14.
Then, Chargers Nick Novak kicked a 30-yard field goal to bring it to 24-17.
Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o suffered a concussion late in the first half and punter Mike Scifres was also shaken up late in the first half. He gingerly punted in the third quarter despite an aching back.