CARSON, Calif. (AP) – Travis Benjamin returned a first-quarter punt 65 yards for a touchdown and caught a 42-yard TD pass in the fourth, and the Los Angeles Chargers played a dominant defensive game in the first home victory of their relocation season, 21-0 over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Joey Bosa had two of the Chargers’ five sacks while they sent the Broncos (3-3) to the franchise’s first shutout defeat since a 24-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders on Nov. 22, 1992.
Philip Rivers passed for 183 yards in his 100th victory, hitting Austin Ekeler for an early TD and Benjamin for the late clincher.
The Chargers (3-4) have won three straight under new coach Anthony Lynn following a winless opening month in their first season back in Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego.
Trevor Siemian passed for 207 yards, but Denver lost to the Chargers for just the third time in the AFC West rivals’ past 14 meetings – and did so in historic fashion.
The Broncos, who have never been shut out at home, might have been able to preserve their non-shutout streak with long field goals in the fourth quarter. But coach Vance Joseph went for it twice on fourth down and ended up with an interception and a turnover on downs.
The Chargers had lost seven consecutive home games since last November, and they hadn’t won a home game as the LA Chargers since Dec. 18, 1960.
But the Bolts largely dominated the Broncos, who have lost three of four with a flagging offense that has managed three touchdowns in four games. Los Angeles also avenged its season-opening loss in Denver on a blocked field goal at the end.
The Chargers forced a turnover on Denver’s opening drive and advanced to the Broncos 1, but failed to punch it in on four straight running plays. Undeterred, the Los Angeles defense got a stop – and Benjamin allowed one big bounce before scampering down the middle for the Chargers’ first punt return for a TD since 2012.
That was only the Chargers’ second touchdown of the season in a first quarter, where they had been outscored 50-7.
Neither offense accomplished much in the first half, but Ekeler caught a 1-yard swing pass from Rivers for a TD in the second quarter, capping a 65-yard drive and staking Los Angeles to 14-0 halftime lead.
That was the Chargers’ biggest lead in their past 14 games, but they missed plenty of opportunities to make it bigger. Along with that game-opening failure at the 1, Jahleel Addae and Jatavis Brown both dropped easily catchable interceptions on passes from Siemian, who was under constant pressure from the Chargers’ pass-rushing duo, Melvin Ingram and Bosa.
Benjamin got open across the middle late in the fourth quarter and took off for his second touchdown catch with the Chargers.
Von Miller finished with two sacks, moving past Karl Mecklenburg for second place in franchise history behind Simon Fletcher. Miller has sacked Rivers 16 times.
Denver’s offensive struggles were likely related to the injury absences of right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) and receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ankle), Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) and Cody Latimer (knee).
The Chargers played without starting right tackle Joe Barksdale (turf toe) and key defensive lineman Corey Liuget (back). They lost LG Matt Slauson to a biceps injury in the second half.
Broncos: At Chiefs on Monday night in a prime-time chance to answer back in the AFC West race.
Chargers: At Patriots on Sunday for the first of two straight transcontinental road trips, with their bye week sandwiched in between.