MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Broncos block late FG, top Chargers, 24-21

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Broncos block late FG, top Chargers, 24-21

DENVER -- The rookie head coach iced the rookie kicker.

Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo's 44-yard game-tying field goal try with a second left and the Denver Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.

"It was a little too exciting," Von Miller said after presenting Joseph with the game ball in the jubilant locker room. "But a win is a win."

Koo nailed the kick moments earlier, but Joseph had called a timeout to ice the kicker.

"I had two timeouts and I wasn't going to leave with those in my pocket," Joseph said.

Derek Wolfe had bull-rushed the first field goal and told Harris, a third-year journeyman who made the team largely because of a rash of injuries along the D-line, that he'd get a chance to slice through this time because the guard would lean his way.

Sure enough, Harris got his right hand on the ball, which frittered short of the end zone as the Chargers looked on in dismay and the Broncos dog-piled Harris.

"It's too bad because Koo drilled the first one," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And they called timeout and I think he drilled the second one, too. At least, that's what it looked like to me because it was going right down the middle. And I think if we get to OT, we would have finished it off, but we didn't get that chance."

Harris got the start only because Jared Crick and Zach Kerr were out with injuries.

"I'm going to be real with you: I have no clue what happened," Harris said of his heroics. "I felt it. I just couldn't tell you where I felt it."

Koo was also at a loss to explain what happened.

"I was just focusing on the kick," he said. "I don't know how it got blocked. It felt good off the foot. I'll just have to watch film."

The ending was reminiscent of last year's opener in Denver, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 reunion when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.

Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter in this opener and the Broncos were feeling pretty good. And why not? The Chargers were 1-155 in their history when trailing by 17 or more in the fourth quarter and Denver was 175-0-1 with a fourth-quarter lead of 17 or more.

Then came a nightmarish eight-minute stretch in which they had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.

"The game was in firm control for about three quarters there and we felt good but you turn the ball over twice on the short side of the 50, it's going to be a problem with Philip Rivers," Joseph said.

Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.

The Broncos held Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned.

Rivers threw touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin following the takeaways to make it 24-21.

Back-to-back sacks of Siemian set up a 50-yard field goal try that McManus pushed wide right, giving L.A. the ball at its 40-yard line trailing by three.

But Koo's miss loomed larger in the final seconds.

DENVER'S DOMINANCE: The Broncos led 14-7 at halftime after Siemian threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Fowler and scored on a 1-yard keeper .

Los Angeles' only touchdown drive was aided by a 40-yard pass interference call on cornerback Bradley Roby before Rivers hit running back Melvin Gordon for an 11-yard touchdown toss. Safety Justin Simmons hit Gordon at the 2, but he just somersaulted across the goal line.

Rivers stayed away from the All-Pro tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., instead targeting Roby and safeties Darian Stewart and Simmons.

Roby atoned for his crucial penalty with an interception in the third quarter on a pass intended for Allen. That led to Siemian's 6-yard TD toss to Fowler that made it 21-7.

McManus kicked a 20-yard field goal on the last play of the third quarter, capping a 78-yard drive that ate up 8 minutes, 16 seconds.

HISTORIC OPENER: The game presented landmarks on the football field , along the sidelines and in the broadcast booth .

Not since 1960 had the Chargers represented L.A., where they played their inaugural season before bolting to San Diego.

Beth Mowins became the first woman to call an NFL regular season game since NBC's Gayle Sierens in 1987 when she handled play-by-play on the doubleheader nightcap alongside Rex Ryan, who made his debut as an ESPN analyst.

With Anthony Lynn also making his head coaching debut, this marked the first time two black head coaches worked their first NFL game against each other.

MCMANUS'S MILLIONS : McManus was the last restricted free agent to sign his tender this summer, waiting until June 15 to put his signature on a one-year, $2.75 million deal after making $600,000 last season. He did it in hopes of getting a long-term deal, which he finally got Monday just hours before kickoff when he agreed to a three-year extension worth $11.25 million.

BEEFY BRONCOS : The Broncos beefed up their depleted defensive line before kickoff by promoting rookie nose tackle Tyrique "Pot Roast Jr." Jarrett to their active roster and waiving Kyle Peko.

INJURY UPDATES: Chargers backup SS Rayshawn Jenkins left in the second half with a concussion. So did Broncos starting right guard Ronald Leary, who was replaced by second-year pro Connor McGovern. Leary will be in concussion protocol during the week as the Broncos prepare to face his former team, the Dallas Cowboys. Broncos rookie CB Brandon Langley left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and Stewart left in the closing minutes with a strained left groin after collecting six tackles.

UP NEXT: The Chargers host the Miami Dolphins, whose opener was scrubbed by Hurricane Irma. The Broncos are home again to take on the Cowboys.

Belichick on poor NFL offensive line play: It's hard when you can't practice

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Belichick on poor NFL offensive line play: It's hard when you can't practice

FOXBORO -- When the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA limited the number of padded practices that teams could organize, it was seen as a win for player safety. And it probably was. But the shortage of padded reps has had other ramifications that is hurting the on-the-field product. 

MORE PATRIOTS

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about what is becoming billed as an offensive-line-play epidemic in the NFL, he told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that it's hard to expect linemen to be able to execute their techniques when the amount of time they have to practice those techniques is so limited.

"I just think in general, fundamentally it’s difficult to play on the offensive and defensive line," Belichick said. "You’re playing a contact position with pads, and you’re practicing it without pads the majority of the time. That usually develops a lot of bad habits, and a lot of the techniques that a player would have the chance to work on and improve with pads, that opportunity just isn’t there without pads. So, it’s hard to improve at those positions when, a lot of times, you’re practicing techniques that are really not the ideal technique or, in some cases, incorrect, and it just develops bad habits, especially on the offensive line.

"I think that . . . without being able to practice, favors the defensive players a little more, whereas the offensive unit has to work together and be able to block things at more of a game tempo with pads and penetration and combination blocks and things like that. It’s just hard to simulate those and hard to get the timing of those when you’re just standing up watching each other without pads on a lot."

The Patriots are in pretty good shape. They have an offensive line unit that returned all five starters from last year's Super Bowl-winning squad. They have two experienced tackles. They have three athletic and intelligent interior offensive linemen. The results in 2017 haven't been perfect, but how many teams around the league would get on their hands and knees and beg for a group like the one in New England?

Take a look at Seattle, where one of the best quarterbacks in the game resides. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the third-worst offensive line in the league when it comes to pass protection, and in two games the Seahawks have scored 21 points. 

The worst pass-blockers in the league? They currently reside in Houston, where starting left tackle Duane Brown is still holding out for a new contract. 

There are multiple factors that are impacting line play in the NFL. Coaching could be one. College players coming into the league from spread programs with no pro-style offense experience could be another. 

But practice time is right up there near the top of the list, if not right at the top, according to Belichick.

"I mean, look, we’re all coaching under the same rules, but I think it’s harder, especially at that position, to improve when you really can’t practice your skill," Belichick said. "It’s like, you go out to the driving range and hit drives and hit balls, but you can’t go on the putting green. And then, to think that your putting is going to be at the same level as your driving when you can’t really practice it, it’s not really realistic.

"But, again, all teams are operating under the same set of rules, so it is what it is. But, it’s hard. It’s hard at that position. It’s hard to tell a guy, ‘This is what you should do,’ but he really can’t go out and practice it."