Broncos vs. Chargers score, takeaways: Dustin Hopkins injury-defying walk-off FG lifts LA Denver

It almost took an extra quarter, but the Chargers edged the AFC West rival Broncos on Monday night. Neither club has had much success with the ball in their hands under the lights, with Justin Herbert throwing nearly 60 times and Russell Wilson struggling to connect downfield after his excellent start with Denver. In the end, though, Brandon Staley’s team got the better of Nathaniel Hackett, giving Los Angeles the ball deep in Broncos territory. Kicker Dustin Hopkins sealed the deal, kicking a 39-yard walk-off field goal in the Chargers’ 19-16 victory, even after aggravating the injury on his first kick of the night.

Both teams entered the primetime affair with major question marks. Denver struggled to establish an offensive rhythm despite the much-anticipated Wilson-Hockett team-up, losing star running back Javonte Williams to a season-ending injury in Week 4. Wilson started Monday’s game. 10-for-10, then reappears.

The Chargers, meanwhile, have failed to post a consistent defensive game despite Staley coming from that side of the ball. Their efforts improved against Denver, even though pass rusher Joey Bosa was sidelined with an injury, but JC led the way at halftime after surrendering several deep shots from Wilson.

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

Why the Chargers won

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

Justin Herbert praised Hopkins for being a reasonable closer last series, though the quarterback was more erratic and erratic than usual, in an apparently conservative game plan and without several key starters, namely receiver Keenan Allen and center Corey Linsley. Austin Ekeler, despite being bottled up all night, at least served as a consistent outlet, recording 10 catches to help move the ball on dunks and dunks.

The defense was even better, turning in the most impressive outing of the year against a Broncos team that proved stuck in the mud. The unit lost a total of seven tackles while drilling Wilson on several key downs, forcing linebacker Drew Tranquil to fumble untouchable on a fourth-quarter blitz. Special teams came in, too, with Ja’Zar Taylor smartly forcing Broncos special teamer PJ Locke into his own quarterback, Montrell Washington; The play forced an interception to set up the Chargers’ final drive in Denver territory.

Why the Broncos lost

It would be easy to fit this in Washington. If not more from Hackett’s offense. Wilson had a more comfortable year out of the gate, taking shots downfield while moving, but KJ Hamler’s deep balls — or for that matter — were short-lived. Between the 10 penalties, Denver went 4 for 14 on third downs, unable to get Cortland Sutton or Jerry Judy involved when it mattered. It didn’t help that Wilson had little time to throw or touched the ball long late in the contest, or that Mike Boon Hackett, who looked the most dynamic back left to fill in for Javonte Williams, was rarely used.

It’s a shame Denver couldn’t move the ball again and/or finish drives after a promising start, as the team’s defense threatened to win the game. With six sacks of their own, nine pass deflections and a stuttering performance for the loss of star cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who effectively erased Mike Williams from Herbert’s sights, the Denver “D” could only watch as time went on. T places the dots on the board.

turning point

No doubt Ja’Zar Taylor blocked his man inside Montrell Washington on the OT punt return. But you could also say that Hopkins’ 39-yard game-winner came when Herbert moved outside the pocket to deliver a nine-yard strike to Mike Williams. Herbert, again, didn’t have a pretty night, especially after being in control for over 10 minutes when he was knocked out by Baron Browning. But he scored in the waning minutes of OT, and that’s all that matters.

Game of the game

It’s Taylor again. Give some credit to the special team! If the officials had reviewed one of Mike Williams’ few downfield goals, in which he layed up and came close to two feet on his way down the field, it might have been the highlight of the night. But Taylor’s awareness was key to stopping a Broncos player on a muff punt.

What’s next

The Broncos (2-4) 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, will stay in Los Angeles to host the Seahawks (3-3), who beat the rival Cardinals to stay tied in the NFC West.

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