Chargers rally, escape with 19-16 overtime win over Broncos

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers sideline erupted in cheers after two special games by a storied special teams unit.

With 4:58 overtime remaining, the Bolts recovered a muted punt on the Denver Broncos 28-yard line. Then, four games later, kicker Dustin Hopkins — who was playing through a right hamstring injury — knocked down a 39-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 19-16 win at SoFi Stadium.

With the win, the Bolts improve to 4-2, keeping them center stage in the race for the AFC West while proving they’re capable of handling the clutch.

Last Sunday, the Chargers were gifted a win by the Cleveland Browns when kicker Cade York missed a potentially game-winning 54-yard field goal.

On Monday Night Football, the Chargers made it clear they could win on their terms.


Chargers from Los Angeles

QB Breakdown: Justin Herbert and the Bolts’ offense struggled to find a rhythm against fast and physical defense. Herbert completed 37 of 57 passes for 238 yards with one interception.

Regulation has seen Herbert average 2.2 air yards on his completions, below his previous career low of 2.7.

Cornerback Pat Surtain II effectively eliminated go-to-target wide receiver Mike Williams, who finished with two catches for 17 yards — including a clutch 9-yard reception in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

Herbert’s lone touchdown drive came in the first quarter when he put together a seven-play 84-yard drive that led to Austin Ekeler running 6 yards to put the Bolts on the board 10-7.

In the fourth quarter, on the first and tenth from his own 17-yard line, Herbert was intercepted on a pass intended for Gerald Everett – his second interception this season as he aimed for his new tight end.

Herbert, who has been sacked twice, continues to play through a fractured rib cartilage, which he said earlier this week: “I think it’s getting better. I think time is probably the best help.”

Worrying trend: Cornerback JC Jackson is not playing by standard after signing a five-year, $82.5 million free agency deal.

Jackson could only watch as tight end Greg Dulcich sprinted past for a 39-yard touchdown reception on an obviously botched order in the first quarter to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead. A fifth-year pro, Jackson played four seasons in New England, where he had led the NFL in interceptions (25) since 2018.

Jackson is awaiting his first pick as Charger and it’s unclear exactly what prompted his slow start to the season, whether he’s learning a new scheme or coming back from ankle surgery performed in late August.

Buy on a breakout performance: After spending most of the 2021 season on the sidelines following ankle surgery, edge rusher Khalil Mack is proving he’s still got plenty in the tank in his ninth NFL season.

Mack admitted Monday night that chasing Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is no fun, but he put constant pressure on Wilson, firing him once and also knocking down a pass.

Mack is tied for second in the NFL, along with six other players, with six sacks. The Chargers have fired Wilson four times. – Lindsey Thiry

Underestimated statistics to get to know: Herbert threw zero touchdowns on 57 passes on Monday. It’s the second time this season that a player has thrown at least 57 passes without a touchdown (Kyler Murray).

Next game: vs. Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Denver Broncos

One of the biggest items on Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett’s to-do list when he took the job was to improve on the Broncos’ dismal performance in the AFC West, particularly on the divisional road.

The Broncos stumbled Monday night in their last 13 division games dating back to the start of the 2020 season, 2-11 into SoFi Stadium, 0-7 on the road with a loss in Las Vegas already on this season’s list . So add another to the growing pile, as their offense ended them in the second half – again – and rookie Montrell Washington muffed a punt at the Broncos’ 28-yard line with 4 minutes, 46 seconds to go into overtime playing to help set up a 19-16 overtime loss for the Los Angeles Chargers.

It all had a familiar ring to the Broncos, who held a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before their still-struggling offense essentially ended a night. A team that scored all five points in the third quarter of this season — two of them this year from defense with a safety — was ruled out again in the third as the Broncos had just 19 offensive yards.

The Chargers simply held back against a battered Broncos offensive line for much of the second half — left tackle Garett Bolles will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his right fibula in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts — around Russell Wilson to keep out of sync.

The Denver defense hit it enough to get into overtime, but all that work the Broncos said they had on offense in the 11 days between their Thursday night loss to the Colts and Monday’s loss to the Chargers done certainly didn’t show up.

Worrying trend: Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis got a preview of what the rest of the season could be like for him. Mathis, who is on the season-ending lineup due to Ronald Darby’s knee injury, was targeted by Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on the first play of the game — Mathis was called out for pass interference — and the Chargers didn’t let too high.

Mathis had three pass interference penalties totaling 81 yards in the first half alone, four in the game. Whenever Herbert had even a minimal stressful situation, he sent the ball to Mathis. The rookie is getting used to it and reacting better because the moment the Broncos’ future opponents look at what the Chargers did Monday night, they’ll think they can make it work too.

Mathis showed some resilience with a crucial fourth pass to open the fourth quarter, but the game was another indicator it won’t be a relaxed ride for him in the coming weeks.

Largest hole on the board: Hackett has spent a lot of time since getting the job talking about how important the running game is and will be on the team’s offense.

And then, as the team struggles through the learning curve, the running game is decorative at best when it has the ball. Granted, the season-ending injury Javonte Williams suffered in the loss to the Raiders will affect the Broncos’ plan, but they only played the ball seven times in the first half against the Chargers, and one of those was a Wilson scramble.

This has sometimes resulted in short possession times, with the Broncos wasting just over a minute on an ill-timed three-and-off before sending their defense back onto the field. And the team’s continued struggles on first down — Denver hit second-and-18, second-and-12 and second-and-9 in the first half alone — have kept the Broncos from something they have a bigger role in have to do what they do.

All you have to see is at number 3 and 1, in their first overtime possession, Wilson was in the shotgun when he threw an incomplete under heavy pressure from a Chargers pass rush for no reason to slow down.

QB Breakdown: Wilson hit his first 10 passing attempts on Monday night and looked much more comfortable overall. But without the benefit of much play action on the Broncos offense and amid an ongoing breakup with wide receiver Jerry Jeudy that crops up regularly, Wilson completed just three of his next 11 passes.

He completed passes to nine different receivers, including the first touchdown for rookie tight end Greg Dulcich. However, first-down issues continue to disrupt the pace of things and while Wilson was better in the first half of Monday, there is still work to be done. -Jeff Legwold

Underestimated statistics to get to know: Wilson started the game by making his first nine attempts with nine different pass catchers. According to Elias, no QB from 1978 has started a 9-on-9 game against nine different players.

Next game: vs. Jets (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday) Chargers rally, escape with 19-16 overtime win over Broncos

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