The Los Angeles Chargers got a much need win Sunday against the Denver Broncos to keep their playoff chances alive. Thanks to the Chargers' victory--and losses by the Ravens and Dolphins--the Bolts suddenly control their own playoff destiny. Their formula is simple: win and you are in. More on that later this week.
Let's talk about how the Chargers got to the blowout win.
Before the game, Justin Herbert needed 2 Touchdown passes to set the Chargers single season record held by the great Philip Rivers, set in the 2008 season with 34 TDs. The Chargers made a statement on their first drive, going 55 yards in 7 plays, culminating in an Austin Ekeler 3-yard rush for a Touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
The Chargers' defense stopped Denver's opening drive on 4th down at the Chargers 44 yard line. Jerry Tillery came up with a sack, causing a turnover on downs. The sack gave Tillery 4.5 sacks on the year.
During the Broncos drive, Drew Lock ran for 6 yards but took a hit from Joey Bosa, which appeared to cause Lock pain in his shoulder. Lock would go another drive before exiting to the locker room. He would be out for a lone Broncos offensive possession. During Lock's absence, former Boise State standout Brett Rypien--son of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien--took the reigns at Quarterback. Rypien threw 2 incomplete passes in his brief outing, and could not gain a first down.
After 4 ensuing possessions resulted in Punts--2 by each team--the Chargers generated a drive Denver could not stop. The 1st quarter ended with the Chargers driving, up 7-0.
The score at the end of 1: 7-0 Chargers.
On 4th-and-goal from the Denver 1, Staley decided to kick a Field Goal--something many Charger fans begged for following the missed 4th down attempts against Kansas City on Thursday Night Football. The Field Goal gave the Chargers a 10-0 lead.
Drew Lock returned for the Broncos on their next possession, and looked to be fine as he moved the Broncos all the way to the Chargers 2 yard line for a 1st-and-Goal. The Chargers defense registered 3 mammoth stops, and Denver elected to go for it on 4th-and-Goal from the 2 yard line.
Trick Minus Treat
On 4th down, the Broncos tried a trick play where Lock tosses the ball to Kendall Hinton, who in return is supposed to throw to Drew Lock in the Flat. Hinton could not get a clean throw off, as Nasir Adderley stormed in, disrupting the play. Hinton forced a bad pass--that Lock still managed to catch--but the Quarterback was stopped by short by Joey Bosa and Chris Harris Jr., who don't make the play, were it not for Adderley disrupting the pass.
Turnover by Special Teams
On the next drive, the Chargers punt the ball but Diontae Spencer muffs the punt and it is recovered by the Chargers Kemon Hall at the Denver 49 yard line. Chargers turn the turnover into an 11 play 49 yard drive taking 3 minutes off the clock. The drive was capped Justin Herbert 8-yard Touchdown pass to Keenan Allen. The Chargers now enjoyed a 17-0 lead with 0:14 left in the 2nd quarter. The Touchdown was Allen's 48th of his career, putting him 4th in team history and passing the great Charlie Joiner.
Broncos Get on the Board
With seconds remaining in the Half, Denver got a 24-yard catch-and-run by former Charger Melvin Gordon to the Broncos 49 yard line. An 8-yard completion followed and Denver took a timeout to set up a 61-yard field goal attempt.
Brandon McManus nailed the 61-yarder as the Half expired.
The score at the end of 2: 17-3 Chargers.
The Broncos received the ball to start the second Half, but could only muster 22 yards before having to punt.
The Chargers took their opening possession all the way down to the Denver 1 yard line and a 1st-and-Goal. On first down, Austin Ekeler is tackled for a 4-yard loss. The next 2 plays resulted in incomplete passes, and the Chargers settled for another Dustin Hopkins Field Goal. The kick was Good, capping off a 14-play, 78-yard drive and boosting the Chargers lead to 20-3.
Denver would once again drive down to the Chargers Goal line with help from a Derwin James "Roughing the Passer" penalty on what would have been a 3rd down stop. Broncos now had a 1st-and-Goal at the 8. This soon turned into 4th-and-Goal at the 1 as the 3rd Quarter came to an end.
The score at the end of 3: 20-3 Chargers.
Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio decided to go for it on 4th down, and Melvin Gordon got in for a 1-yard Touchdown, but it was called back on an "Illegal Formation" penalty. Denver settled for a Field Goal, shaving the Chargers lead down to 14.
Andre Roberts for Six
Following the Denver Field Goal, the Chargers would do something they haven't done since 2012: take a Kickoff to the house. On the following Kickoff, Andre Roberts slashed the Denver kick coverage with timing and decisiveness, gaining 101 yards and a Touchdown. It was the first kickoff return for a Touchdown by a Chargers since 2012 when Michael Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards against the Raiders in a 24-21 Chargers win.
All 4 Chargers Kickoff returns for Touchdowns since 2008 have all been against AFC West opponents: Sproles in 2008 vs. Denver, Goodman in 2011 vs. The Raiders, Spurlock in 2012 vs The Raiders, and now Roberts in 2022 vs. Denver. Roberts' Touchdown gave the Chargers their biggest lead of the game up to that point at 27-6.