After suffering late-game defeats over the past three weeks, the San Diego Chargers inked their second victory of the season on Thursday night.
For the Bolts' defense, the victory was even sweeter knowing they had the final say. As the Denver Broncos were attempting to surmount a touchdown drive that would have needed a successful two-point conversion to send the game to overtime, the Chargers defense sealed the win for the home team.
It was the icing on the cake for what was a strong game start to finish for the defense.
"We said (before the game) that for the rest of the season, it's not going to be like that anymore," said Melvin Ingram. "We are going to go out and play for 60 minutes. That is what it's all about; as long as we go out and play for 60 minutes, we'll be alright."
"(The defense) was lights out," Head Coach Mike McCoy mentioned. "I think (with) the way they played early on, getting turnovers (and) rolling a lot of bodies…. We made plays and did whatever we had to do to win this game."
In addition to playing the full game, the Chargers defense forced the Broncos offense into uncomfortable positions most of the night. They held quarterback Trevor Siemian to 39 passing yards in the first half and 72 through the end of the third quarter.
"It was amazing," said Joey Bosa. "I'm really proud of our defense. We really stepped up when all eyes were on us. That was kind of the message this week, that all eyes were going to be on us, and we just had to truly believe that we were going to get the win. We came out there and really just played."
For the first time this season, the starting defensive line consisted of the core three envisioned throughout the offseason: Brandon Mebane, Corey Liuget and Joey Bosa. After a strong showing in his last game, the rookie continued his high level of play with a pair of quarterback hits.
Along with other playmakers like Tenny Palepoi, the unit played as one and continued to swarm Siemian throughout the game, forcing him into quick, short throws without blitzing. The defense notched eight total quarterback hits and held the Broncos to just six of 15 on third down.
"We dressed six defensive linemen today, the way they kind of just rolled through it," McCoy added. "It was a great team effort."
"It was great," Liuget added. "We just knew that we had to get a good four-man rush. Melvin Ingram and (Joey) Bosa out there, Caraun Reid was big in the end zone backed up to get the safety with the holding call. It was awesome. It was great that we just went out there and played."
The defense also had two turnovers on the night in a pair of forced fumbles. In the third quarter, inside linebacker Korey Toomer, who was just signed two weeks ago, came in to force a fumble on Denver wide receiver Jordan Taylor, which number 56 then recovered. The play turned into points for the Chargers offense as Josh Lambo kicked a field goal four plays later.
"That play meant a lot to me because I pride myself in trying to make big-time plays," Toomer said. "I want to do whatever it takes for this team to win. That's why I'm here and these coaches gave me a chance. I want to do whatever is in my power to make a good play for them."
In the fourth, one play after sacking Siemian for a loss of 10, rookie ILB Jatavis Brown came in and jarred Demaryius Thomas to force a fumble. The ball was recovered by Craig Mager, who gave possession back to his offense with just under four minutes left.
"It's fun to go out and help my team get a win," Brown said. "It's amazing…. I knew I had to go up early. After what happened with Manti (Te'o) I take pride in everything I do."
As for what changed on this short week? The defense focused on getting back to basics and mentioned this win is a confidence-builder they feel can propel them through the rest of the season.
"We can do this every week; we can do this week-in and week-out," Toomer mentioned. "We just have to stay mentally focused. This week we were sharp and slowed the game down in practice. We were locked in and that's why we came out with a win today. We were just locked in the entire time."