Chargers-Broncos season opener is historic in many ways
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By ARNIE STAPLETON
DENVER (AP) The Los Angeles Chargers' game against the Denver Broncos on Monday night presents landmarks on the football field, along the sidelines and in the broadcast booth.
Not since 1960 have the Chargers represented L.A., where they played their inaugural season before bolting to San Diego. They headed back up Interstate 5 this offseason, extending Philip Rivers' daily commute.
Not in 30 years has a woman called a regular-season NFL game as Beth Mowins will when she handles play-by-play duties for the doubleheader nightcap alongside Rex Ryan, who will make his debut as an ESPN analyst.
And never before have two black head coaches made their NFL debut against each other in the same game, as Anthony Lynn of the Chargers and Vance Joseph of the Broncos will for the 10:20 p.m. ET kickoff.
The longtime friends and onetime neighbors are the first black head coaches for their respective teams, and two of eight head coaches of color this season, which matches the 2011 season for the most in league history.
"It's obviously a special thing on a big picture," Joseph said. "Hopefully in four and five years it won't even be an issue. It would just be two coaches going at it."
Mowins feels the same way about being the first woman to call an NFL game since NBC's Gayle Sierens in 1987.
"I don't worry too much about any place in history," she said. "I'll let other people handle that. My focus is on the day to day and while I know it's new to everybody else, it's not new to me. I've been calling `Monday Night Football' games for my family sitting in the living room for decades. So, hopefully I can be just as entertaining in the booth as I have been at home."
Now, back to the game and its swarm of subplots:
REAL McCOY : Lynn replaced Mike McCoy, who landed in Denver for his second stint as Denver's offensive coordinator and is glad to be calling plays - if not the shots - once again.
"I've got a burning desire to call plays," said McCoy, who's now designing game plans for Trevor Siemian, who beat out 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch again this summer. Siemian's backup is Brock Osweiler , who returned to Denver last week after an 18-month odyssey through Houston and Cleveland.
GRATING THE QBS : Von Miller is the league's top pass rusher, but with Shane Ray on IR with a wrist injury and Shaq Barrett still working his way back from an injured hip, the Broncos don't have quite the pass-rushing duos the rest of the AFC West sports, including the Chargers with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
"Ingram's a great player, he's a veteran, very similar to Von. But Von's the best of the best and I got to see him in practice" every day, Broncos rookie left tackle Garett Bolles said. "I've been going against Von and Shane Ray in OTAs, then we have Shaq back, so I have the best defense in the whole National Football League right here in my locker room. I'm going to be ready because I go against them every day."
DEEP DIVISION : The AFC West appears to be the toughest division in the league top to bottom. The Chargers are coming off a 5-11 cellar season that included nine losses by eight points or less.
"This is probably the most talented Chargers team that I've played against. The defense is a whole lot better and the offense is a whole lot better," Miller said as he rattled off their many attributes. "I guess the move from San Diego to L.A. really helped out."
SWAPPING SPOTS : Russell Okung has gone from being Denver's left tackle to protecting Rivers' blindside.
"Russell's just a pro's pro," Lynn said. "He's a very good tackle. He's athletic, he's physical and he has great intangibles. He's been a big plus for our locker room."
Okung was battling injuries and didn't have a great season in Denver last year.
"He looks healthy on film," said Miller, "and he looks like the early Russell Okung that was at the Seattle Seahawks that had a lot of great plays and a lot of great years."
HUNGRY WOLFE : Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe returned from a severely sprained right ankle in half the six weeks that doctors expected. He said he's 100 percent and showed off an ankle Thursday that had no residual swelling or discoloration - in stark contrast to the puffy, purple ankle he showed on Twitter after getting hurt.
Wolfe said he thought he broke his leg and would miss the season. When told otherwise, "I was shocked. I couldn't wiggle my toes for three days." Wolfe also revealed he played last season with two injured disks in his neck which he hurt on opening night. That resulted in weakness on his left side and ultimately a right elbow injury that sidelined him for three games.
"I'm 100 percent" now, declared Wolfe.
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Updated September 7, 2017