It could’ve been a grave defeat. The Denver Broncos dodged a bullet thanks to a few key players who stepped up to keep the team’s long-running ‘Mile High Magic’ record of 16-1 home openers since 2001, now 17-1.

Pass protection seemed adequate early on, courtesy of Jamaal Charles who’s looking more and more like an asset to the team.

But as the game progressed, pass protection was almost non-existent.

Vance Joseph did not mince his words.

“Our backs ran north-south and found some open space to run. That part was very impressive as far as the running game. The pass protection was not that good. Again, we were facing two elite rushers in (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa. We knew it was going to be a chore, but we have to be better there.”

There was clearly too much pressure on Trevor Siemian. According to Joseph, “There were too many whiffs as far as blocking those speed rushers.”

Siemian was hit nine times. That shouldn’t have happened. Not with a re-designed O-line that boasted Garett Bolles, Menelik Watson and Ronald Leary.

Most teams don’t have to face two elite edge rushers at a time, but the Broncos did Monday night. In fact, as Joseph pointed out, every team in the AFC West has two. Which is precisely why the Broncos need to be on their toes. “There are no excuses there. We’ve got to play better on the edge as far as blocking speed rushers.”

Denver’s 24-7 lead was quickly whittled down to 24-21, as Philip Rivers converted two takeaways into touchdowns. Back-to-back sacks lifted the Broncos back up to 32.

Shelby Harris’ blocked field goal saved the game from going into overtime. Siemian finished with two touchdown passes and a touchdown run.

Siemian is wary of Chargers star defensive end Joey Bosa, after being sacked four times. “We’ll see him again, so I’m sure I don’t want to see myself in that situation where it’s me and him too often.”

We can only hope he’ll be better protected the next time they face the Chargers, or for that matter, in any game.

The franchise invested $36 million on former Dallas Cowboys guard Leary, but he already had to exit his first game with the Broncos suffering a concussion. His presence is desperately needed, but it’s still unknown whether he’ll be ready for this weekend’s game against Dallas.

Allen Barbre and Max Garcia rotated at left guard, and managed to move Bosa and Ingram inside on some downs.

As Joseph said, “I think that is a weapon for us to have two guys that can play at the left guard. Max is a big, physical guy who can move guys in the run game. Barbre is an excellent pass protector. Having both guys, in my opinion, is like having two backs.”

That at least, is a plus.

Which is more than can be said for Von Miller, whom the team were trying to free up. The Chargers wouldn’t let that happen. They “chipped both rushers” and coverage should’ve taken over then. Pass rush had been great in the past, but Joseph was clear that the trick now is to reverse it. “We’ve got to play tighter coverage to get the rush home more often.”

All we can do now is hope for some significant improvements by this weekend.

(Quotes provided by Arnie Melendrez Stapleton, AP)

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Yvonne Hew is the Denver Broncos Lead Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow her on Twitter at @yvonnehew1. Looking for more Broncos news and features? Follow @spot_broncos and @pfspot.