Broncos convert gamble into victory
Shanahan goes for 2 in final minute
DENVER - The Broncos were on such a lucky streak, why not roll the dice?
Showing ultimate confidence in his offense and maybe an equal dollop of distrust in his defense, Denver coach Mike Shanahan went for the 2-point conversion with 24 seconds left and Jay Cutler hit rookie Eddie Royal over the middle to give the Broncos a 39-38 win over San Diego yesterday.
"Sometimes you have to go with your gut," Shanahan said. "I just felt like it was a chance for us to put them away. I didn't want to count on the coin flip. I wanted to do it then, and obviously it worked out."
It was the third successful 2-point attempt from a team going for the win instead of a tie in the waning seconds of a game since the 2-point conversion was added in 1994, and the first since Tampa Bay beat Washington, 36-35, on Mike Allstott's run on Nov. 13, 2005.
The Chargers (0-2) were both stunned and steamed at their second straight loss in the waning seconds. The Broncos had the ball because an errant whistle had erased Cutler's lost fumble two plays earlier.
Trailing, 38-31, the Broncos (2-0) reached the 1 but on second and goal, Cutler reared back to throw and the ball slipped out of his hands, bounced off the grass and into linebacker Tim Dobbins's arms.
"Fumble, I think," acknowledged Cutler, who blamed the slick, new ball.
Referee Ed Hochuli blew his whistle when the ball came out, ruling it an incomplete pass. A review showed that it should have been ruled a fumble. Instant replay rules, however, don't allow the opponent to gain possession in such situations.
"All we can do to fix it is put the ball at the spot that it hit the ground, which is why we moved it back to the 10-yard line and the down counts and it becomes third down," Hochuli said afterward.
"On the last play, it was clearly a fumble," San Diego coach Norv Turner fumed. "Ed came over, the official, and said he blew it. And that's not acceptable to me."
Two plays after his fumble was overruled, Cutler hit Royal from 4 yards to make it 38-37.
With 75,000-plus fans at Invesco Field holding their breath, Cutler again found Royal in the end zone for the winner.
The Chargers had one last chance, but Philip Rivers's desperation heave into the end zone missed Chris Chambers.
Denver also benefited from a twist of fate in the first quarter, when the replay booth's machinery malfunctioned, preventing the officials from being able to overturn a San Diego fumble that led to Denver's first touchdown.
Cutler completed 36 of 50 passes for a career-best 350 yards and four TDs and enjoyed the return of Brandon Marshall, who set a franchise record with 18 catches for 166 yards in his return from a one-game suspension.
With LaDainian Tomlinson slowed by a jammed right big toe, Chargers backup Darren Sproles piled up 317 all-purpose yards on 14 touches, including a 103-yard kickoff return for a TD and a 66-yard catch-and-run for the go-ahead score with 4:22 left.