Broncos 20, Chargers 17
-- Ron Dayne spent the Denver Broncos' first game in street clothes and most of the second on the sideline.
By the end on Sunday, though, he was the key in helping Denver to the winning score -- Jason Elam's 41-yard field goal with five seconds left -- in its come-from-behind, 20-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Dayne came off the bench and ran six times for 38 yards on the winning drive, including a 10-yard gain on fourth and one from the Chargers 33. It was the most clutch NFL performance for the former Heisman Trophy winner, who came to Denver after five disappointing seasons with the New York Giants.
"I was just happy to get the opportunity to play, and to help my team win," Dayne said.
It also saved the Broncos (1-1) from going 0-2 for the first time since 1999.
Instead, it's San Diego (0-2) that remains winless despite leading 14-3 early and turning the sellout crowd at Invesco Field squarely against the home team.
"We have to finish games better," Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
LaDainian Tomlinson ran for both San Diego scores in the second quarter.
The Broncos' rally started on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, when Champ Bailey stepped in front of Keenan McCardell, picked off Drew Brees's pass and went in untouched for a 25-yard score.
"Champ Bailey won the game. Let's call it like it is," Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It shows how one play can make such a big difference."
Defense and special teams kept the Broncos in great field position through the quarter, but the offense struggled and Elam missed a pair of 53-yard field-goal attempts.
Midway in the fourth quarter, Broncos rookie Darrent Williams burst through untouched on a punt return for what looked like a touchdown. But the Broncos were penalized for too many men on the field, the result of a number of players running off the sideline to celebrate before Williams hit the end zone.
"I've paid enough money to the National Football League without getting into that," Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan said of the call. "I don't want to be fined anymore."
The Broncos staved off major embarrassment by scoring on that drive to go ahead 17-14, and the Chargers answered back with a field goal -- their only decent drive of the second half -- that tied the score and set things up for Dayne.