Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos felt right at home in San Diego from the minute they came out for pregame warmups and saw all the orange-clad fans.
Then they got a remarkably easy victory against the hapless San Diego Chargers.
Osweiler threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the game's opening drive and Danny Trevathan intercepted Philip Rivers and returned it 25 yards for a score to lead the Broncos to a 17-3 victory.
“Oh my gosh it was unbelievable how much orange,” said Osweiler, who was 16 of 26 for 166 yards as he moved to 3-0 since he took over for the injured Peyton Manning. “They have no idea how much that means to us.
“No one blinked with this being a road game.”
The Broncos improved to 10-2 as they close in on their fifth straight AFC West crown.
With about five minutes left, Broncos fans cheered a scoreboard update showing Philadelphia leading New England. The Patriots, lost, leaving the Broncos in position to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs if they win out.
Osweiler helped lead the Broncos to a 30-24 overtime victory against New England last Sunday night. The Broncos host Cincinnati (10-2) on Dec. 28.
“When the defense was on the field, it was loud,” Thomas said about the crowd. “I was not used to that. It was good for us.”
San Diego fell to 3-9, taking its fifth straight home loss and its fifth straight against division foes. It was the Chargers' second consecutive home game without a touchdown; they lost to AFC West rival Kansas City 33-3 on Nov. 22. It's been more than a year since they've beaten a division foe.
This isn't the first time the Chargers have felt like the road team in their own stadium.
“We've gotten used to it, unfortunately, and us not winning doesn't help,” said a resigned Rivers. “That is a bad combination.”
This might have been the penultimate Chargers game in San Diego. Chairman Dean Spanos wants to move to an industrial suburb of Los Angeles, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week warned San Diego that it had until the end of the month to come up with a solid plan for a new stadium.
The Chargers walked away from stadium talks in mid-June.
The Broncos had no trouble moving 76 yards in eight plays on the opening drive, including a 22-yard run by C.J. Anderson and a 21-yard pass to Thomas. Osweiler then found Thomas wide open in the end zone for the score.
“We got a quick start, a quick score,” Osweiler said. “We slowed down a little bit throughout the game. We did what we had to do to stay in it.”
The opening drive “was our best, running and throwing,” Thomas said. “That is how we want it to be every week. We still have things to work on. If we can do that more often, it will be big for our offense.”
Thomas was coming off the worst game of his career, when he caught just one of 13 passes thrown his way.
On San Diego's third possession, Rivers was hit and the ball went straight to Trevathan. He rumbled in to make it 14-0. It was his first NFL score and the fifth defensive touchdown for the Broncos this season. He later left with a concussion.
It was Rivers' fifth pick-six of the year. Rivers was 18 of 35 for 202 yards and was sacked four times. It was his second-lowest yardage of the season.
“It was not a great throw,” Rivers said. “Just a bad play all the way around.”
The Broncos pushed it to 17-0 on Brandon McManus' 23-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
San Diego rookie Josh Lambo kicked a 51-yard field goal just before halftime to avoid a shutout. He missed a 48-yarder in the first quarter.
Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman suffered a scary injury in the first quarter. He was immobilized on a backboard and taken off the field on a cart after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Denver safety David Bruton Jr. Inman was hit after making a 15-yard catch for a first down.
An initial evaluation was negative and Inman was able to move his hands and feet, the team said.
A few plays later, cornerback Brandon Flowers was hurt. He too was taken off the field on a cart.
Running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers' first-round draft pick, lost another fumble and was benched. He has lost four of his five fumbles and has yet to score a touchdown.
NOTES: Broncos TE Vernon Davis also suffered a concussion. Others on the Broncos' injury list were Anderson (ankle), S Omar Bolden (hamstring) and Bruton (knee). … The Chargers reluctantly confirmed reports they extended general manager Tom Telesco's contract during the summer. The team didn't say why it tried to keep the news quiet. … Coach Mike McCoy, 21-23 in three seasons, said he has not been offered an extension.