CARSON (CNS) - While Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn disagreed with the pass interference penalty that put the Denver Broncos in position to kick the tie-breaking field goal in a 23-20 victory today in Denver, he said it did not cost his team the game.
``I never believe one call or one play win or lose a football game,'' Lynn said after this team's third consecutive loss, all by seven points or less, which ended even its miniscule playoff hopes. The Chargers are 2-7 in games decided by seven points or less.
``There were other plays in that game that could have been made that we did not make.''
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward was called for a 37-yard pass interference penalty that allowed Brandon McManus to kick a 53-yard field goal as time expired.
``Officials are not perfect, but I did not like that call at the end of the game,'' Lynn said. ``I don't think that's the way you end a football game. To make the call, it has to be clear and obvious and I didn't think it was clear and obvious.''
Lynn said the call should either have been offensive pass interference against Denver receiver Courtland Sutton or ``no call.''
``The explanation was we made contact with the receiver too soon,'' Lynn said. ``I didn't see it that way.''
The NFL tweeted a video from Alberto Riveron, its senior vice president of officiating, explaining that Hayward cut off Sutton ``while the ball is in the air, therefore that is pass interference.''
Hayward said he ``thought that I tried to play the ball.''
``I was surprised that they made the call in general, no matter when it is in the game, but they made it so there isn't much that you can do,'' Hayward said. We had the opportunity to win the game, so it doesn't come down to that one call and one play to win the game even though it was a big part of the game.
``I thought it was a no-call. I thought the ball was uncatchable. I was trying to find the ball myself. I think that I have the same right to the ball that he does. But he made the call, so we live with it.''
Sutton said he was ``not at all'' surprised by the pass interference call.
``I think in that situation, they know they've got to throw that flag,'' Sutton said. ``They don't want to throw it at an end-of-the-game situation, but if you make them throw it, playing through the defender and making a play for the ball, they have to call it no matter what.''
The Chargers re-tied the score with 14 seconds to play on Michael Badgley's 46-yard field goal, four plays after Philip Rivers completed a 38- yard pass to Mike Williams on a fourth-and-11 play for a first down on the Broncos 38-yard line after back-to-back false start penalties against offensive linemen.
With the ball on its own 28-yard line with eight seconds left, Denver eschewed having rookie quarterback Drew Lock kneel to send the game into overtime, instead opting for him to throw a long pass that resulted in the interference call at the Chargers' 35-yard line.
The Broncos (4-8) converted a first-quarter interception by Rivers into a touchdown and a muffed punt by Troymaine Pope in the second quarter to a field goal.
``You just can't make those critical mistakes,'' Lynn said.
The Chargers (4-8) rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit to tie the score 17-17 on Rivers' 36-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen with 12 minutes, 18 seconds to play.
The Chargers had the opportunity to take the lead on their next possession, but Badgley's 55-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 9:14 remaining, four plays after linebacker Denzel Perryman intercepted a pass by Lock at Denver's 38-yard line.
Denver regained the lead on McManus' 52-yard field goal with 4:26 remaining, eight plays after Badgley's miss.
The Chargers outgained the Broncos, 359 yards to 218 and led 17-13 in first downs, including a 16-6 advantage over the final three quarters, and 32:09-27:51 in time of possession.
Lock completed 18 of 28 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, both to Sutton, with one interception in his NFL debut. The second-round draft choice out of Missouri was activated from injured reserve Saturday after suffering a thumb injury in an Aug. 19 preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Brandon Allen started Denver's three previous games in place of Joe Flacco, who was placed on injured reserve Nov. 1 because of a neck injury.
Rivers completed 20 of 29 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in front of a crowd at Empower Field at Mile High announced at 74,638.
``He didn't start out well, but I thought he finished strong,'' Lynn said.
Rivers was two for four for 13 yards with an interception and was sacked once in the first quarter.
The Broncos opened the scoring on their second possession on Lock's 26- yard touchdown pass to Sutton, concluding a 12-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 5:55.
Denver increased its lead to 14-0 on its next possession on Lock's 5- yard touchdown pass to Sutton, six plays after defensive end Dre'Mont Jones intercepted Rivers' attempted screen pass at the Chargers' 25-yard line and returned the ball seven yards.
The Chargers got their first points with 9:27 left in the first half on Badgley's 30-yard field goal on a 14-play, 63-yard drive that was extended when Devontae Booker was penalized for roughing the kicker following Ty Long's punt.
The Broncos regained a 14-point lead on McManus' 31-yard field goal with 5:32 remaining in the first half, four plays after Troymaine Pope muffed the catch of a punt by Colby Wadman, with Josey Jewell recovering for Denver at the Chargers' 21-yard line.
The Chargers first touchdown came 30 seconds before halftime when Austin Ekeler turned a short pass from Rivers into a 30-yard score, one play after Rivers' 52-yard pass to Williams.
The touchdown reception was Ekeler's seventh of the season, the second- most by a Chargers running back in a season.