Broncos stunned by Chargers; Raiders sit atop AFC West


Broncos stunned by Chargers; Raiders sit atop AFC West


SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers threw for 178 yards and one touchdown, passing Hall of Famer Dan Fouts to become San Diego's career passing leader, and the Chargers held off the Denver Broncos 21-13 on Thursday night.

The victory may have saved embattled coach Mike McCoy's job . The Chargers (2-4) were coming off a mistake-filled loss at Oakland, and earlier in the season lost three games in which they led at the 2-minute warning. There has been increasing fan discontent with the conservative McCoy, and the Chargers are trying to convince voters to approve a $1.1 billion public handout for a new downtown stadium in the form of an increase in the hotel occupancy tax.

The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos were coached by special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis after Gary Kubiak was ordered by doctors to sit this one out because of a migraine condition that mimics strokes.

The five-time defending AFC West champion Broncos (4-2) were mostly sluggish behind Trevor Siemian, who was back at quarterback after rookie Paxton Lynch struggled in a loss to Atlanta. They lost their second straight game and had their NFL-record 15 straight divisional road victories snapped.

The Chargers snapped their streak of 10 straight divisional losses dating to 2014.

Rivers, in his 13th season with the Chargers and 11th as starter, has 43,094 career yards passing. Fouts threw for 43,040 yards in 15 seasons with the Bolts.

Rivers threw a 5-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Hunter Henry to cap the game's first possession. Rivers finished 18 of 29.

Otherwise, the Chargers had to settle for Lambo's career-high four field goals, of 37, 21, 31 and 32 yards.

LATE-FIRING BRONCOS: Denver didn't get across the 50 on its own accord until there were just 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Denver's first score came after a punt bounced off San Diego's Travis Benjamin and the Broncos recovered at the San Diego 11. The refs initially ruled that the Broncos downed the punt, but Denver challenged and got the ball. Brandon McManus kicked a 29-yard field goal.

Siemian was 30 of 50 for 230 yards, with a 5-yard scoring pass to Bennie Fowler midway through the fourth quarter.

McManus kicked a 46-yard field goal with 27 seconds left, and Denver recovered the onside kick at its 46. It got to the San Diego 45 with eight seconds to go before Siemian's desperation pass was batted down by Dexter McCoil.

DEFENSIVE STAND: The Broncos were threatening at the San Diego 20 with less than 5 minutes to go. But on consecutive plays they were whistled for holding, Siemian was sacked by rookie Jatavis Brown and San Diego's Craig Mager recovered a fumble by Demaryius Thomas.

RIVERBOAT MIKE: McCoy went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 20 early in the second half, with Melvin Gordon going over the top for a 1-yard gain. Rivers misfired on two straight passes and was flushed on third down, forcing the Chargers to settle for Lambo's 37-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. McCoy improved to 25-31 overall in four seasons.

NEW HOLDER: Veteran backup quarterback Kellen Clemens took over as holder for the Chargers after rookie Drew Kaser's misadventure at Oakland on Sunday. Kaser mishandled the snap on a potential tying field goal with 2:07 left in the 34-31 loss. Kaser, who also shanked a punt, kept his job as punter but lost his job as holder.

ANTHEM WATCH: Chargers players Joe Barksdale, D.J. Fluker, Chris Hairston, Joshua Perry and Tyreek Burwell held up their right fists during the national anthem.

INJURIES: Chargers rookie DE Joey Bosa was having his right hand worked on by the trainers after Denver's first drive. He was back in for the next Broncos possession. ... Broncos WR Cody Latimer left with a concussion in the second quarter. ... Gordon limped off the field early in the fourth quarter. He had his right ankle taped and returned on San Diego's next possession.

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.