Broncos Roll By Chargers

Sarah Jessica Parker, left, and Zooey Deschanel pose for photographers as they arrive at the world premiere of their film "Failure to Launch" on Wednesday, March 8, 2006, in New York.
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson

Bill Romanowski was a yard away from the first touchdown of his 12-year NFL career when he fumbled.

He managed to recover in the end zone, then ended up in a wild celebration with his defensive mates, slapping them and letting them slap him.

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Game Summary

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  • "It was one of those days where the ball was bouncing the right way," the linebacker said after the Denver Broncos' 33-17 win over the bumbling San Diego Chargers. "It was nice to have it happen to us."

    Romanowski's slapstick touchdown seemed to set the tone. The Broncos forced four turnovers that led to 17 points as they beat their AFC West rivals for the fifth straight time.

    "I give him an A-plus," defensive end Neil Smith said. "He's got to learn how to put it away at the end. But you get an A-plus any time you make it in there. That's a win for our defense."

    Denver's offense, lacking its marquee players due to John Elway's retirement and injuries to Terrell Davis and Shannon Sharpe, did all right.

    Rookie running back Olandis Gary scored twice and rushed for 108 yards, the first time in 27 games that San Diego allowed a 100-yard runner. The last back to do it was Davis, who rushed for 178 yards in a 38-28 Broncos win here on Nov. 30, 1997.

    Jason Elam kicked four field goals for the Broncos (3-6), who were down to third-string quarterback Chris Miller, seeing his first action in nearly four years. The Chargers (4-4) have followed a three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak in wich they've been outscored 98-20.

    "For them to win this game, that's a big surprise to me," Chargers linebacker Junior Seau said. "When you have a Denver Bronco team without major components of their game, you should perform at a higher level."

    But the reason for San Diego's slump is clear.

    Tory James intercepted Jim Harbaugh in the end zone on the final play, making it 18 turnovers for the Chargers in their last four games. Sixteen of them have been by Harbaugh and fellow quarterback Erik Kramer.

    On Sunday, it was Romanowski's interception of Harbaugh in the second quarter and receiver Chris Penn's two fumbles in the second half that buried the Chargers.

    Romanowski made a leaping interception at the 18, bobbled the ball, stumbled a bit and returned it to the 1, where he was hit by Harbaugh and tackle John Jackson and fumbled. He recovered in the end zone for a 10-0 lead 1:40 into the second quarter.

    "It'd be nice if it deflected and dropped down on the ground for a change," said Harbaugh, whose scrambling rallied the Chargers.

    Penn's first fumble, after a reception, set up Gary's 23-yard scoring run that gave Denver a 20-3 lead with 8:28 left in the third quarter.

    Harbaugh threw a 7-yard TD pass to Freddie Jones and a 44-yarder to Charlie Jones, sandwiched around Elam's 41-yard field goal, to pull the Chargers to 23-17 with 9:17 left.

    After San Diego's defense held the Broncos with just under eight minutes to go, Penn fumbled a punt after calling for a fair catch, with Denver's Detron Smith recovering at the San Diego 38. That turnover set up Elam's 24-yarder.

    "That last one was a killer because we had the momentum and we could have gone ahead," Penn said. "I take responsibility."

    Gary scored on a 5-yard run with 1:56 to go after the Chargers lost the ball on downs.

    Elam also kicked field goals of 44 and 55 yards.

    Miller, starting because Brian Griese and Bubby Brister are hurt, completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and no interceptions. He hadn't played since Dec. 3, 1995, when he suffered the final of a series of concussions that forced him out for the next three seasons.

    Miller was sacked five times, bt said it felt good to take hits.

    "I was hoping I'd get the opportunity to play because it's been a long time," Miller said. "I got excited and that carried over into the game. After the game, my bundle of emotions let go. It was a very special moment."

    Gary said Miller "played a great game. Now we can build on that."

    "It was great from a confidence standpoint," Gary added. "Now we know we can do it. That was one of the best defenses in the league. Our offensive line wore them down."

    Harbaugh, in his first start since Oct. 3, was 25-of-39 for 235 yards. John Carney kicked a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter for San Diego's first points.

    Notes

  • Freddie Jones' touchdown catch was San Diego's first TD in 13 quarters and just their ninth offensive TD this year.
  • The Chargers have not scored first in a game this season.
  • Elam's two PATs gave him 252 straight, moving him past Eddie Murray and into sole possession of second place on the career list. Norm Johnson tops the list with 276 straight PATs.
  • Chargers LB Gerald Dixon broke his left hand, RB Terrell Fletcher hurt his right shoulder and LB Eric Hill sprained his left foot, all in the first half. None of the players returned.
  • Broncos LB David Bowens was ejected for spearing Harbaugh in the fourth quarter.
  • This is the fourth time in five years the Chargers have been at .500 after eight games.

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