It started off as one of the ugliest games of the NFL season. It didn't get much better. But in the end the result didn't matter.
The Chargers beat the Broncos 23-9 in Denver but since the Chiefs waxed the Raiders 35-3, Kansas City wins the AFC West division title and the #1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs while the Chargers are the #5 seed.
The opening kickoff was a preview of things to come. Broncos head coach Vance Joseph decided to try an inside kick to start the game but the execution by kicker Brandon McManus was awful. The ball rolled straight to Brandon Facyson and the Bolts started at the Denver 49 yard line.
It took four plays to give it back. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made a bad throw to the sideline that was intercepted by Isaac Yiadom.
Rivers was also picked off on their 3rd possession when he tried to hit Antonio Gates but didn't see defensive back Will Parks float in front for an easy turnover.
The only thing that saved the Chargers was Denver's offense was terrible, too. The first points of the afternoon came in the 2nd quarter when QB Case Keenum threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage and short of his receiver. Chargers DB Desmond King jumped in to knock the ball away and linebacker Kyle Emanuel returned it 18 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Bolts forced another turnover late in the first half when safety Jahleel Addae picked off a pass in the end zone. But then Addae inexplicably not only brought the ball out, but as he was being tackled tried to pitch the ball to a teammate. The brain fart led to a fumble and the Broncos got the ball back. Denver kicked a field goal to make it 7-3 at the break.
In the 3rd quarter the Chargers defense stole the ball again, this time on another fumble that Joey Bosa recovered at the Broncos 16 yard line. A few plays later Rivers hit Mike Williams for a 3-yard touchdown that made it 14-3.
Denver finally found the end zone in the 4th quarter when Keenum found fullback Andy Janovich wide open for a 20-yard TD but on the 2-point attempt cornerback Casey Hayward jumped in front of a pass headed for Courtland Sutton and went 101 yards the other way for two Chargers points and a 16-9 lead.
Just about this time the Chiefs game went final but the Chargers kept their starting offense on the field one more time and Rivers led a TD drive that ended with Austin Ekeler scoring on a 1-yard TD run. After that it looked like a preseason game.
Geno Smith came in and on his 2nd play Von Miller forced Smith to throw the ball pretty much straight up in the air. It comically fell to Miller for a sack-fumble and showed everyone why it's so important for the Chargers to keep Rivers healthy.
Unless the team that ends up in the 6th seed (the Colts or Titans who play late on Sunday) wins its first two games the Chargers will have to win three games on the road to reach the Super Bowl, something that's only happened four times in NFL history (1985 Patriots, 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, 2010 Packers).