Broncos vs. Chargers score, takeaways: Dustin Hopkins battles injury to hit walk-off FG, lift LA over Denver

It almost took a whole extra quarter, but the Chargers defeated their AFC West rival Broncos on Monday night. Neither club had much success with the ball in their hands under the lights, with Justin Herbert scattershot as he threw nearly 60 times and Russell Wilson struggling to connect downfield after arguably his best opening for a game with Denver. In the end, however, Brandon Staley’s side got the best of Nathaniel Hackett’s, with an awkward recovery on a muffled punt late in overtime that gave Los Angeles the ball deep into Broncos territory. Kicker Dustin Hopkins sealed the deal, hitting a 39-yard walk-off field goal in the Chargers’ 19-16 win, even after wanting to aggravate an injury on his first kick of the evening.

Both teams entered the primetime affair with big question marks. Denver had struggled immensely to build an offensive rhythm despite the highly anticipated Wilson-Hackett squad, losing the star who carried Javonte Williams back to a season-ending injury in Week 4. 10-for-10, then resurface.

The Chargers, meanwhile, had failed to register a steady defensive display, despite Staley coming off that side of the ball. Their efforts were enhanced against Denver, even with pass rusher Joey Bosa sidelined due to injury and prized offseason addition JC Jackson on the bench at halftime after conceding several deep shots from Wilson.

Here are some additional takeaways from Monday night’s AFC West showdown:

Why did the Chargers win?

Dustin Hopkins. OK, there was more to it, but no one deserves more credit than the veteran kicker, who missed Week 5 with a hamstring injury, compounded injury on his first extra point of the night and then went 4-for-4 on field goals including the 39-yarder to give the Chargers their first and final lead. He was clearly in pain, but he gave birth.

Justin Herbert deserves credit for getting Hopkins pretty close to the last series, though the quarterback was generally more erratic and indecisive than usual, working on an apparently conservative game plan and without several key starters, namely receiver Keenan Allen and center Corey Linsley. Austin Ekeler, though he spent most of the night in the bottle, at least served as a steady outlet, registering 10 catches to help move the ball in dinks and dunks.

The defense was even better, arguably the most impressive performance of the year, albeit against a Broncos team proven to be stuck in the mud. The unit made a total of seven tackles for a loss while driving Wilson on multiple keydowns, with linebacker Drue Tranquill coming in untouched on a fourth quarter blitz to force a punt. Special teams also came through, with Ja’Sir Taylor cleverly forcing Broncos special teamer PJ Locke into his own return man, Montrell Washington; the game forced a fumble that set up the Chargers’ final drive into Denver territory.

Why did the Broncos lose?

It’ll be easy to pin this one on Washington, the rookie returner, who failed to secure the fair-catch point late in overtime, but anyone who watched from start to finish knows this “L” – par for the course – came as much, if not more, from Hackett’s offense. Wilson looked most comfortable having been outside the gate all year, taking photos along the way, but the deep balls for KJ Hamler – or anyone else for that matter – were short-lived. In between 10 penalties, Denver went a paltry 4 for 14 on third downs, with Courtland Sutton or Jerry Jeudy not involved when it mattered. It didn’t help that Wilson either had little time to throw the ball or held the ball too long late in the game, or that Hackett Mike Boone was playing sparingly, seemingly the most dynamic of the defenders left to fill in for Javonte Williams. .

It’s a shame that after the promising start Denver was again unable to move the ball and/or finish the drive, as the defense of the team threatened to win the game itself. With six of their own tackles for losses, nine pass deflections and a stud appearance from star cornerback Patrick Surtain II effectively erasing Mike Williams from Herbert’s vision, the Denver “D” could only watch as time ticked off and his own attack couldn’t put points on the board.

Turning point

No doubt it was when Ja’Sir Taylor blocked his man in Montrell Washington on the OT point return. But you could also say it was when Herbert shifted outside the pocket to deliver a nine-yard strike to Mike Williams that made Hopkins’ 39-yard game winner. Herbert again didn’t have a good night, most notably throwing into traffic with just over 10 minutes left in regulation and getting plucked by Baron Browning. But he was on target in OT’s dwindling minutes, and that’s all that mattered.

Playing the game

It’s Taylor again. Give the special teamer some credit! If officials had watched one of Mike Williams’ few downfield goals, in which he lay and landed nearly two feet as he went to ground, it might have been the highlight of the night. But Taylor’s awareness of essentially blocking a Broncos player in a muffled punt was key.

What’s next

The Broncos (2-4) will return home in Week 7 for a matchup with the red-hot Jets (4-2), who upset the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday. The Chargers (4-2) meanwhile remain in Los Angeles to host the Seahawks (3-3), who defeated the rival Cardinals to top the NFC West.

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