The Denver Post, Joe Amon) TV OUT MAGS OUT, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers were effectively pushed over the brink on Sunday.
Really, though, it's been coming since they blew an 11-point halftime lead to the New York Jets on Oct. 23.
Matt Prater kicked a 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in overtime to lift Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos to a 16-13 victory over the Chargers, who've lost six straight games for the first time in 10 years.
The Chargers (4-7) are on their longest streak since ending 2001 with nine straight defeats and are last in the AFC West, three games behind Oakland with five to play.
The loss will no doubt keep fans calling for team president Dean Spanos to fire coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith, especially if the Bolts miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
The losing streak followed a 4-1 start, the best in Turner's five seasons as head coach.
"We're 4-1 and 21-10 at the half, and we let that one slip away," quarterback Philip Rivers said, referring to the 27-21 loss at the Jets.
"It's just snowballed out of control," Rivers added. "We know what this game would do from a morale standpoint, from a keeping us in the hunt standpoint. This game was huge."
The Broncos narrowly avoided the first NFL tie since Cincinnati and Philadelphia ended deadlocked at 13 on Nov. 16, 2008.
Tebow, now 5-1 as the Broncos' starter, led Denver from its 43 after San Diego's Nick Novak was wide right on a 53-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 left in overtime.
Novak made a 53-yarder in the first quarter, a career best, and was wide right on a 48-yard try early in the fourth quarter.
Tebow had a 12-yard gain and Willis McGahee ran 24 yards up the middle to set up Prater's winning kick, which was right down the middle.
Tebow, the talk of the NFL because he runs the read option and often struggles while passing, carried 22 times for 67 yards — the most carries by a quarterback in a game since at 1950, according to STATS LLC.
He also threw for one touchdown and finished with a better rating than Rivers, 95.4 to 77.1. Rivers was pressured all day by Elvis Dumervil, who had two sacks, and rookie Von Miller, who had one.
The Broncos (6-5) won their fourth straight game and remained in second place in the AFC West.
Tebow's first start was also an overtime win, 18-15 at Miami on Oct. 23.
Ryan Mathews, who was having the best game of his two-year career, was on the sideline for the crucial possession when Novak missed. Fullback Mike Tolbert was thrown for a 4-yard loss the play before Novak missed.
Turner didn't have an explanation for what happened.
"He came out and I don't know why he came out," Turner said. "We're in the middle of the drive. I assumed when he came out that he came out for a play and then he didn't go back in."
Tebow got a final chance to try to win it in regulation after the Broncos forced the Chargers to punt. Starting on his own 26, Tebow kept the drive going with a 39-yard completion to Eric Decker — which the Chargers unsuccessfully challenged — and a 23-yarder to Dante Rosario. The Broncos had to settle for Prater's 24-yard field goal that tied it at 13 with 1:34 to go.
Referee Jeff Triplette confused the crowd and TV viewers by saying each team would get a possession in OT. He then corrected himself, saying it would be sudden-death.
The Broncos won it on their third possession in OT.
McGahee ran 23 times for 117 yards. A week after having a critical fumble in a loss at Chicago, San Diego's Mathews ran 22 times for a career-high 137 yards.
Rivers was 19 of 36 for 188 yards. Tebow was 9 of 18 for 143 yards.
The Chargers took a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Rivers hit Antonio Gates on a 6-yard scoring pass in the back of the end zone to cap a 15-play, 91-yard drive. On San Diego's first drive, Novak kicked a career-best 53-yard field goal.
The Broncos forced a Chargers punt and started a drive with 1:27 left before halftime at the San Diego 46. Tebow threw a 20-yard pass to Daniel Fells, who fumbled near a swarm of defenders.
Somehow, Denver tackle Orlando Franklin recovered at the 24. After a 1-yard gain by Tebow and a penalty against cornerback Quentin Jammer, Decker slipped behind the coverage and Tebow hit him for an 18-yard TD to pull to 10-7.
The Chargers had to settle for Novak's 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Denver had a long drive later in the quarter before Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull to 13-10.
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