I seriously, seriously wish I didn’t have to type this out, but here it goes.
The Chargers blew a 21-point lead to the Broncos on Sunday night football as quarterback Drew Lock hit wide receiver K.J. Hamler for the walk-off touchdown to beat the Chargers 31-30 in Mile High. It was the fourth blown lead of at least 16 points in as many games.
The Broncos started the game on offense and was sent back to the sideline just about as quick as they trotted on after the Chargers defense forced a quick three-and-out. Just three plays later, Herbert’s lower body was hit as he attempted a deep pass to Jalen Guyton and Justin Simmons was able to undercut the throw for an early momentum-shifting interception.
Once again, the defense hunkered down. Denver gained zero yards on the next three plays and were forced to kick the field goal for a 3-0 lead. The teams combined for five punts and and a turnover-on-downs by the Bolts over the next six drives before Justin Herbert hit Keenan Allen for the first touchdown of the game on a beautiful side arm throw.
On the Chargers’ next offensive drive, they went 80 yards in six plays before Herbert capped it off with a two-yard touchdown throw to UDFA fullback Gabe Nabers in the back of the end zone to raise the score to 14-3 with 15 seconds left in the first half, all before the Chargers were set to get the ball after the break.
At the midway point, the Chargers defense had held the Broncos offense to just a pair of first downs and only two rushing yards. It was reminiscent of last week’s opening effort against the Jaguars where they didn’t allow their first completion until the second quarter.
The Chargers capitalized and managed to sandwich the halftime break with scoring drives, as they opened the second half with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in an incredible one-handed touchdown reception from Herbert to Mike Williams in the back corner of the end zone. After forcing the Broncos into their sixth punt of the game, Bolts were able to tack on another field goal to bring their lead to 17 with a little over seven minutes left in the third quarter.
But then...the momentum shifted. After limiting the Broncos to almost nothing on the ground through the first 39 minutes of the game, running back Phillip Lindsay scooted through a small crease, high-stepped out of a tackle attempt by Nasir Adderley before out-running the rest of the defense for a 55-yard score. Prior to that play, Lindsay had three carries for a single yard.
After a Los Angeles punt, Drew Lock made his first big mistake of the game, throwing an ill-advised out-and-up to rookie Jerry Jeudy that was picked up by a leaping Jenkins who returned it 23 yards back to the Denver 24-yard line.
In frustrating fashion, Herbert turned the ball over right back to the Broncos on an under-thrown pass to Williams who wasn’t able to wrestle the ball away from cornerback Bryce Callahan.
Lock and the Broncos took advantage of the sudden change and took the offense 80 yards in nine plays before hitting tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the back of the end zone to shrink the Chargers’ lead to 24-14.
On the ensuing drive, the Bolts gained a little bit of their momentum back with a 46-yard field goal by Michael Badgley — his second conversion of the day — to increase the lead to 13.
The Broncos, who somehow impressively flipped the script in the second half offensively, only took two plays to go 75 yards for their third touchdown of the game. The quick score was aided by a rather ticky-tack unnecessary roughness penalty and Adderley slipping on the eventual touchdown pass to wide receiver DaeShon Hamilton.
Herbert and the Bolts responded well to the mounting pressure on their next offensive possession. They were able to take a solid five minutes off of the clock, but the promising drive was suddenly obliterated by a “crack-back block” penalty on Hunter Henry. The tight end happened to cut a defender right as Sam Tevi threw an elbow at him and that instantly created a flag. Herbert couldn’t amount anything from that point, eating a sack before finding Henry for a 13-yard gain on third-and-22. Badgley converted his third field goal of the night to create a more comfortable 30-24 lead.
It didn’t matter.
With just one game-winning drive to his name, Drew Lock escorted the Broncos offense down the field 81 yards in 14 plays. On fourth-and-four, Brandon Facyson — who was in for an injured Casey Hayward — was called for a pass interference penalty which all but sealed it for Denver. At the one, Lock took the snap and sprinted right before hitting Hamler near the sideline while a pursuing Tevaughn Campbell could do nothing but watch as he hauled in the pass. The extra point was up and good, sealing the Chargers’ demise.
The Bolts fall to 2-5 and likely just saw all of their chance at the playoffs vanquish. The Broncos move to 3-4 which bounces the Chargers to the basement of the AFC West.