Wilson, Broncos beat Herbert, playoff-bound Chargers 31-28

Jan 8, 2023, 2:44 AM | Updated: 9:03 pm
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pressured by Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kenne...

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pressured by Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (9) has he throws during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

              Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks to pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
            
              Los Angeles Chargers tight end Gerald Everett (7) scores a touchdown after making a catch against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
            
              Denver Broncos running back Latavius Murray (28) runs against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
            
              Denver Broncos tight end Eric Tomlinson (87) celebrates as he scores a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
            
              Denver Broncos running back Tyler Badie (36) dives for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
            
              Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (10) runs past Los Angeles Chargers safety Alohi Gilman (32) after making a catch during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
            
              Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pressured by Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (9) has he throws during the first half of an NFL football game in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER (AP) — If this was a sign of what’s to come in 2023 in Denver, Russell Wilson and the Broncos faithful can breathe easier this offseason.

Wilson rediscovered some of his magic Sunday, throwing for three touchdowns and a trio of bull’s-eye deep balls that each covered more than 50 yards in the Broncos’ 31-28 win over the playoff-bound Los Angeles Chargers.

“Today he looked like he was having more fun,” Chargers leading tackler Drue Trainquill said. “He hit a few deep shots outside of the pocket, which is vintage Russ. That’s what he’s known for. I thought he did a good job, put the ball where it needed to be put and his receivers got open for him.”

Especially Jerry Jeudy, the man who stood up for Wilson last week when the online vitriol was seemingly running at its peak. On Sunday, Jeudy gained 193 yards from scrimmage with five catches for 154 yards and three runs for 39 more. The highlight was a 57-yard catch during a three-play, 75-yard drive that took 20 seconds and sent the teams into halftime tied at 17.

Again, he had high praise for Wilson.

“I saw the same Russ that didn’t give up even though we didn’t have the season that we wanted,” Jeudy said after the Broncos (5-12) dodged the franchise’s first 13-loss season and its first winless run in the AFC West in a non-strike year since divisional play began in 1970.

The Chargers (10-7) played most of their starters for most of the game, even though they knew before kickoff they were locked into the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs with a first-round game at Jacksonville on Saturday night.

“I know everyone on this team wanted to go out and compete today,” said Justin Herbert, who threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns in his 27th consecutive start with 20 or more completions, the third-longest streak since the merger.

Herbert played three quarters and left with the Chargers trailing 31-20. Backup Chase Daniel threw a touchdown pass and passed for a 2-point conversion after a muffed punt at midfield.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley had many of his stars on the bench by the time the Broncos salted away the win by driving from inside their own 5-yard line to midfield in the final 3:14.

“These aren’t easy decisions,” Staley said. “And hindsight is perfect for everybody on the outside. But these games are not easy to manage. They’re not. Because you don’t have that many players. We did it to the best of our ability.”

Staley’s decision to keep his players sharp in an otherwise meaningless game might prove costly, however.

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams was carted off the field with a back injury and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. suffered a stinger. Also, Joey Bosa, who just returned from a groin injury last month, was limping along the sideline following his cameo that featured a sack.

“Joey was taken out like the rest of the guys that we were trying to phase out in the game,” Staley responded when asked if Bosa was hurt again.

Justin Simmons capped his best season yet with a pair of forced fumbles and the Broncos handed interim head coach Jerry Rosburg his first win after four decades as an assistant.

Rosburg, 67, took over two weeks ago when Nathaniel Hackett was fired. Although he hedged a bit after the game, he hinted all last week that he’ll return to the hyperbaric oxygen therapy venture he was involved with before GM George Paton lured him out of retirement this season to serve as a senior assistant to Hackett.

And the Broncos will continue their search for their fifth head coach since they won Super Bowl 50 seven years ago. On deck are interviews with Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton and the process is expected to take three weeks.

BETTER DAYS

After struggling all season under Hackett, Wilson had his best two games of the season with Rosburg in charge, including last week’s 27-24 loss at Kansas City.

Wilson found running back Tyler Badie from 24 yards out to give Denver a 24-17 lead on the opening drive after halftime and added a 24-yard TD throw to Courtland Sutton that made it 31-20.

Wilson promised that whoever the new coach is, he’ll find a different Wilson in Denver, one who started to find his way at the end of a lost season.

“I fell short in of my own standards and my own level of expectations and I just wanted to recapture that,” Wilson said. “… And over the last few weeks, I feel like we found that again.”

INJURIES

Broncos CB K’Waun Williams left in the first half with a concussion, and WR Freddie Swain left with a hip injury after hauling in a 54-yard pass in the second half.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and will face the surging Jaguars, who have won five in a row.

Broncos: Will be speaking after Jan. 17 with Payton, who’s still under contract with the Saints for two more years, and Harbaugh, among several others as they pick up the pieces from their sixth straight losing season.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ancer keeps his distance over Young in Saudi Arabia

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Abraham Ancer had a 6-under 64 to bump his lead to two shots over Cameron Young on Saturday going into the final round of the Saudi International. Ancer and Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year who had a 65, have separated themselves from the field […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts runs a drill during practice at the NFL football team's training f...
Associated Press

Super Bowl-bound Eagles are built around QB Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts in 2020 came with as much hand-wringing as intrigue regarding how to use the talented Heisman Trophy finalist. The Eagles already had quarterback Carson Wentz locked into a $128 million contract. They certainly had more pressing needs at the time on all sides of […]
1 day ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) drives as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) defends during the f...
Associated Press

Young scores 27 to lead Hawks past Jazz, 115-108

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Trae Young had 27 points and six assists to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 115-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. De’Andre Hunter scored 26 points for the Hawks. Onyeka Okongwu had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray added 13 points and eight assists. Atlanta […]
1 day ago
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) shoots a three point basket as Houston Rockets forward Jae...
Associated Press

VanVleet has 32 as Raptors get 117-111 win over Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) — Fred VanVleet scored 32 points, Gary Trent Jr. added 29 and the Toronto Raptors snapped a two-game skid with a 117-111 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night. The Raptors took a commanding lead in the third quarter and were up by double-digits for most of the fourth. But five straight […]
1 day ago
Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) shoots against Washington Wizards guard Monte Morr...
Associated Press

Blazers rally from 20 down to end Wizards’ win streak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Anfernee Simons scored 20 of his 33 points in the third quarter and the Portland Trail Blazers erased a 20-point deficit, snapping Washington’s six-game winning streak Friday night with a 124-116 victory over the Wizards. Simons made six of Portland’s nine 3-pointers in the third, and the Trail Blazers finally caught and […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) is fouled as he drives to the basket against San Antonio...
Associated Press

Embiid’s double-double keys 76ers as Spurs drop 8th straight

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers beat San Antonio 137-125 on Friday night, sending the scuffling Spurs to their eighth straight loss. Tyrese Maxey had 25 points and James Harden added 16 for Philadelphia, which has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. “Tonight was […]
1 day ago
Wilson, Broncos beat Herbert, playoff-bound Chargers 31-28