Trailing the Broncos, the Chargers have avoided a hole deeper than seven points, thanks to a questionable ruling that ended Denver’s second drive.
On the second play of the second quarter, with the Broncos at the 50, quarterback Peyton Manning threw the ball to tight end Julius Thomas. He began to make the catch, was hit by a pair of Chargers, and had the ball ripped out while falling to the ground, but before his rear end struck the turf.
The ruling on the field was a catch and a fumble. After the automatic replay review following a turnover, referee Clete Blakeman upheld the call.
It could have, and perhaps should have, gone the other way. Thomas never cleanly possessed the ball, and he didn’t fully secure it until he was in the act of falling to the ground. Under the rule that has been applied and misapplied by the officials over the last few years regarding possession of a catch through the act of going to the ground, the ruling should have been that the pass was incomplete.
The Chargers were unable to capitalize. Despite pushing the ball from their own 44 to the Denver 35, kicker Nick Novak slipped while attempting a 53-yard field goal — missing the kick and giving the Broncos the ball at their own 43.