Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock (13473389bj) Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) tries to get a pass off as he is hit by Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II (94) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Inglewood, Calif Broncos Chargers Football, Inglewood, United States – 17 Oct 2022
Chargers 19, Broncos 16 (OT)
The Denver Broncos entered Monday night an offensive failure, averaging a league-worst 15 points per game and producing multiple duds in prime time spots. Their two wins could easily be credited to an elite defense, highlighted by the #1 ranked secondary in the NFL entering Week 6. The defense was in for a steep test against the Chargers’ elite passing offense, but it was the Denver offense that would jump out to its best start of the year.
The Broncos’ first drive set up a long field goal by Brandon McManus to give them a 3-0 lead, but it was their next drive that would turn heads with the type of big plays Denver fans had been looking for. Russell Wilson connected on a 37-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy to move into Chargers’ territory and then found rookie tight end Greg Dulcich for a 39-yard touchdown pass that completed a lightning-fast scoring drive. The 10-0 lead was Denver’s first time scoring double-digit points in a first quarter all year, but the Los Angeles Chargers’ potent offense would respond in short order. Austin Ekeler’s physical six-yard touchdown run made it 10-7, capping off an impressive 15-play, 82-yard drive. Los Angeles would add another field goal on their next possession, tying the game at 10 with less than a minute to go in the first half despite kicker Dustin Hopkins appearing to injure himself on the play. Russell Wilson would then complete his third pass of 35 or more yards before halftime, this time a 47-yard bomb to K.J. Hamler to set up a field goal at the buzzer and a 13-10 lead.
Chargers’ kicker Dustin Hopkins, playing through obvious pain, would promptly convert a field goal to tie the game at 13 with more than nine minutes left to play in the third quarter, setting the stage for an entertaining finish between two teams who needed a win badly. Both defenses stepped up their game in the second half, as the evening would creep into the fourth quarter without the score changing. Linebacker Baron Browning would make a huge play early in the fourth quarter for Denver, intercepting Justin Herbert on a tipped pass and recovering his own fumble to preserve the turnover before the play ended. The massive turnover set up the Broncos with an instant opportunity in Los Angeles territory, but they’d settle for a 48-yard Brandon McManus field goal and a 16-13 lead. The Chargers would dink and dunk their way down the field with short passes back into Denver territory but would end up turning to hobbled kicker Dustin Hopkins for a third field goal to tie things at 16 with four minutes to play.
The ensuing Denver drive was theoretically an opportunity for Russell Wilson to engineer a Broncos’ win, but a huge third down sack by Drue Tranquill ensured the drive only gained nine yards in total before a punt back to Los Angeles with 1:51 to play. The relentless pressure on Justin Herbert from the Broncos’ defense continued on the Chargers’ final drive, but the Chargers’ quarterback continued to find quick pass completions that allowed Los Angeles to trickle downfield slowly. The drive would eventually stall out just short of midfield, leading to one final unsuccessful Hail Mary pass on the final play in regulation and sending the game to overtime in a 16-16 tie.
Denver would win the coin toss and make the obvious decision to take the ball first in overtime, but a quick three and out would give the ball back to the Chargers with a chance to win the game with any score. Both teams would punt again over the next few minutes, seemingly coming to a stalemate as overtime began to wind down. Ultimately, it was Denver’s punt return unit that fell apart with the game on the line. Montrell Washington muffed the catch on a punt return with just over four minutes to play in overtime, handing the Chargers back the football at Denver’s 30-yard line. Los Angeles wouldn’t gain much from there but did enough to set up hobbled Dustin Hopkins’s 39-yard game-winning field goal. Hopkins’ teammates mobbed him on the field after the make, as Los Angeles moved to 4-2 and into a tie with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West.
Next Week: Denver: vs NY Jets, Los Angeles: vs Seattle