With 15 seconds left and his San Diego Chargers trying to hold onto a 21-13 lead against Denver, embattled coach Mike McCoy hunched over with his head in his hands.
It couldn’t be happening again, could it?
Two snaps later, Dexter McCoil batted down Trevor Siemian’s desperation pass and McCoy and the Chargers were able to exhale.
“We won the game It’s a great thing,” McCoy said Friday. “We made the one stop at the end that we had to make.”
The Chargers (2-4) snapped a 10-game losing streak to AFC West foes dating to 2014, finally figuring out how not to blow a late lead.
Still, they made it far more interesting at the end than needed.
The victory came a week after a mistake-filled loss at Oakland. Before that, the Chargers blew big late leads in losses at Kansas City and at home to New Orleans, and a late lead in a loss at Indianapolis.
Fans — and perhaps McCoy, based on his sideline body language — were on edge in the final seconds against the Broncos.
Brandon McManus kicked a 46-yard field goal with 27 seconds left to pull the Broncos within one score. Denver recovered the onside kick at its 46 and got to the San Diego 45 with eight seconds left before Siemian’s desperation pass was batted down by McCoil.
“They got the onside and the defense did a great job of doing what we had to do at the end,” McCoy said. “It’s about winning. It’s not always going to be pretty. We found a way at the end to make that one stop.”
It was just the sixth win in the last 22 games for the Chargers, who continue to threaten to move to Los Angeles if voters don’t approve a $1.1 billion public handout in the form of a hotel occupancy tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Did it save McCoy’s job?
“I come in every day, I do everything I can to help the team win,” said McCoy, who is 25-31 overall in four seasons. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about my job, it’s about winning football games and putting players in a position to succeed.”
John Spanos, the president of football operations, and Tom Telesco, the general manager, didn’t return emails seeking comment about whether McCoy’s job was and still is in jeopardy.
The Chargers got big performances from rookie tight end Hunter Henry, who caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, as well as two other rookies, defensive end Joey Bosa and inside linebacker Jatavis Brown.
However, they still have big problems on special teams, especially with punt returner Travis Benjamin. Benjamin, signed as a free agent in the offseason, had a punt bounce off his ankle and the Broncos recovered, setting up McManus’ field goal late in the second quarter.
“Travis has got to catch that ball,” McCoy said. “If he does not catch it, he has got to get away from it.”
On Denver’s free kick after a safety early in the fourth quarter, offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins muffed the catch for another turnover that set up a touchdown that pulled the Broncos to 21-10.
“We were too deep, the guys behind him, where they have to get in position where they can come up and make that catch,” McCoy said.
The Broncos easily recovered the onside kick late in the game.
After Benjamin’s muff, the Chargers replaced him with Dexter McCluster.
McCoy wouldn’t say if the move was permanent.
“We’ll see. They can both do it.”
As for Benjamin’s poor play, “There’s some things we’ve got to change,” McCoy said. “It’s something we have to fix in a hurry.”
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