Chargers special teams sparks an overtime victory over Denver

It took 11 punts, seven field goals, three fourth down attempts, two touchdowns, and an interception for the Chargers versus Broncos game to end. The Chargers were victorious 19-16 in overtime after a Dustin Hopkins 39-yard field goal.

It was a tough defensive matchup that led to only 12 points being scored in the second half on Monday night.

Here are some takeaways from Monday’s victory:

  1. Hopkins and special teams

There would be no victory if it weren’t for kicker Dustin Hopkins and the play from the special teams. Hopkins came into the game having missed last week due to a quad injury, and it seems like he hurt his hamstring during the game tonight.

“He had a hamstring cramp/strain,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “It just didn’t feel right. You can’t say enough about him hanging in there.”

Hopkins still managed to kick four field goals even though it was evident he was in pain.

“Before every kick, you knew it was going to feel like someone was stabbing you with a knife,” Hopkins said. “It was like, ‘All right. Let’s do this.'”

Late in overtime, the Chargers were forced to punt, so JK Scott launched one and Broncos returner Montrell Washington called for a fair catch, but safety P.J. Locke decided to engage with Chargers gunner Ja’Sir Taylor, so Taylor shoved him into Washington, and the punt was muffed.

“Once I saw the fair catch and saw him relax,” Taylor said. “His teammate was standing right in front of him, so instead of just letting him catch it, I decided to make a play and bump the defender into him.”

Taylor’s teammate and fellow rookie Deane Leonard, recovered the fumble and gave the Chargers offense the ball on the Broncos side of the field.

“He should have moved out the way but thank God he didn’t,” Taylor said.

Four plays later, Hopkins came in to hit the 39-yard game-winning field goal to send the Chargers to 4-2.

“It was great,” Hopkins said.

  • The defense set the tone.

The Chargers defense started off rough, letting Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson start a perfect 11 for 11. He was carving up the Chargers defense the first two drives and even hit tight end Greg Dulcich for the 39-yard touchdown that was a blown coverage.

Staley said he wasn’t happy with some of the blown coverages by the secondary in the first half, most of them happened to free agent signing J.C. Jackson. He has struggled to begin his Chargers tenure, so Staley benched him in the second half for Michael Davis.

“I thought Mike [Davis] gave us a chance in the second half,” Staley explained. “I liked the way that he played. He was ready. Proud of him. Proud of his teammates for helping him along, his coaches. It just wasn’t good enough in the first half, and we felt like we needed to make a change.”

The Chargers defense swarmed Wilson in the second half and barely let him get any passes off. Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill sacked Wilson twice on crucial third downs to give the offense the ball back. He, along with safety Derwin James and edge rusher Khalil Mack had sacks on Wilson.

“We locked in,” James said. “We gave up a few plays in the first half that we weren’t happy about, so in the second half, we came together, and we got to complete performance in the second half.”

The Chargers also only allowed three points by the Broncos offense after a Justin Herbert interception on their side of the field. After a couple of bad weeks by the defense, they settled down this week and had a tough showing.

  • It wasn’t pretty, but offense took what it got

There is a sense of frustration over the way the Chargers played offense on Monday. This is a typical offense that is seen throwing 50-yard bombs or racking up yards in a hurry. That wasn’t the offense the whole country saw.

They saw an offense that took what it was given.

“They are not pretty passes, three or four yards, but they move the chains and they get the ball going,” Herbert said. “We would love to be able to push the ball downfield, but we had to be smart. We tried to do our best to limit turnovers. I can’t be more complimentary of the defense for coming up with some big stops today.”

The Chargers offense moved the chains and was able to move the ball up the field at times, even though it was an offense that was all about the short yardage running and passing the football.

Their leading receiver Mike Williams only had two catches for 17 yards, that final catch was to set up the Hopkins winner, so it was important. Williams was shadowed by one of the best cornerbacks in the game Patrick Surtain, so others had to step up.

Josh Palmer, Donald Parham, Gerald Everett, Sony Michel, Austin Ekeler and DeAndre Carter all stepped up and contributed.

“They have a great defense, and they are really well-coached,” Herbert said. “That’s kind of the game that we knew we were going into, it’s going to be a battle. They could easily be 5-0 prior to this game. We had to just take what they gave us. It’s obviously not pretty, not the way we want to win, but a win is a win and we love to take it.”

Herbert had to throw it 57 times and only had 238 passing yards with no touchdowns. It was ugly, but they got the win. Sometimes in the NFL teams need to know how to win ugly. The Chargers didn’t do it week two against Kansas City, but they did it on Monday night.

They are now 4-2 and sit at the top of the AFC West, tied with Kansas City for the division lead, even though the Chiefs have the tiebreaker. The Chargers have won three straight and are righting the ship from their 1-2 start.

“I thought 4-2 has been a big step up for us, especially where we were at with 1-2,” Herbert said. “For us to answer back and to win three games in a row like that, I think it says a lot about our team, our defense, our special teams, because they have stepped up big time. It’s been awesome to see from them.”

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