NFL: 5 takeaways from the Denver Broncos' Week 8 win over the Los Angeles Chargers
After a pass interference call put the Denver Broncos on the 1-yard line with one second remaining and a chance to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, quarterback Drew Lock stood under center with players in motion in front of him.
Lock rolled out to the right after taking the snap, and as Chargers' defenders closed in, tossed a ball toward receiver KJ Hamler. While falling backward, Hamler secured the ball, slid his heels against the end zone turf, and tied the game. An extra point seconds later secured the Denver Broncos' win, 31-30.
Here are five takeaways from the Week 8 AFC West matchup.
5. Drew Lock leads the Denver Broncos' comeback
With 7:30 left in the final quarter, Lock hit a wide open DaeSean Hamilton for a 40-yard touchdown to complete a two-play TD drive. The drive pulled the Denver Broncos to within striking distance of a game they trailed by 11 points at halftime, and as many 21 points. After Denver's defense earned a stop in their own territory, Lock was once again tasked with driving the field to try to win the game.
On the next drive, Lock (assisted by two pass interference calls) capped off his comeback, passing for his 248th passing yard of the game and third passing touchdown. Down 24-3, and with both Lock and the Denver Broncos defense playing terribly, the Week 8 matchup seemed unwinnable at times for the Broncos, but it was Lock who ended the game dancing off the field.
4. Chargers flash adaptability in loss
At the end of the first half, Chargers QB Justin Herbert took a snap, peeled to his right and found all his weapons covered in the end zone. Taking a few more steps to his right, buying time, Herbert threw a ball off his back foot to open space where Gabe Nabers stepped behind a defender and caught the touchdown pass.
It was Nabers’ first career TD reception, but Herbert's patience and flexibility were the biggest takeaways from the play.
Both defensive lines blew up the opposing pockets for most of the game, forcing it onto the legs of the quarterbacks. Early on, the Chargers young quarterback found success scrambling and adjusting, while Denver's Drew Lock faltered. It was only when Lock began making plays outside the pocket and connecting on passes in the second half that the Denver Broncos stormed back into the game.
3. Second Half, New Lock
Pundits lauded the potential of the Denver Broncos' offense throughout the offseason — plays could be designed to rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy, WR Courtland Sutton, tight end Noah Fant, or either of Denver’s two standout running backs — but in the first half, the Denver Broncos' O was a no-show.
But with their playoff hopes seemingly on the line, the now 3-5 Denver Broncos emerged in the second half. The Lock that John Elway has dreamed of showed up and consistently pushed his team down the field and back into the ballgame. With Lock making plays in the second half, the run game opened up for Denver — the Broncos rushed for just a handful of yards in the first two quarters but Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon (a former Charger) finished with over 100 combined rushing yards.
2. The Chargers' uncharted playoff path
The Chargers began this season with playoff aspirations, but after their divisional loss to the Denver Broncos, they sit at 2-6. Unfortunately for those L.A. aspirations, no team has ever made the playoffs after starting 2-6
Though 2020 is the first year of a new NFL playoff format, where 14 of the leagues 32 teams will make the playoffs, things are not looking up for the injury-riddled Chargers. Perhaps a 2-6 team may crawl to a playoff spot from the abysmal NFC East, but the 2020 AFC is strong and losses to divisional opponents like the Broncos have Justin Herbert and into a seemingly insurmountable hole.
1.The Allen-Herbert connection is still strong
Coming into Week 8, Chargers star wideout Keenan Allen was on pace for a career high in targets from his rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
On Sunday afternoon, the connection shined once again — Allen caught nine balls on 11 targets, and racked up 67 yards and a touchdown. Against a Denver Broncos defense that holds opposing passing games to just 230 yards, Allen and Herbert connected consistently. They had some miscommunication issues, including some widely overthrown passes in the fourth quarter, but it was clear that Allen is Herbert's safety blanket.
Herbert has been discussed in the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year chatter halfway through the 2020 season, and both his and the Chargers' success can be attribute to Allen's ability to break double-teams, get open, and catch almost every catchable ball.