INGLEWOOD (CNS) - Michael Badgley kicked four field goals, including a 37-yard tie-breaker with 41 seconds to play, to give the Los Angeles Chargers a 19-16 victory over the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
The Chargers took a 16-3 lead on Badgley's 25-yard field goal with 14 minutes, 50 remaining. The Broncos got a 50-yard field goal from Brandon McManus, a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Drew Lock and a 52-yard field goal from McManus on their next three possessions, tying the score 16-16 with 2:42 left.
What proved to be the winning drive began with an 11-yard run by Austin Ekeler, a 23-yard pass from Justin Herbert to Jalen Guyton and a 23-yard run Ekeler, advancing the ball to Denver's 18-yard line with 1:41 to play. Badgley kicked the field goal four plays later.
Ekeler rushed for 10 yards on seven carries before the final drive.
The Broncos started their final drive on their own 25-yard line with 41 seconds remaining after a touchback on Ty Long's kickoff. After throwing three consecutive incomplete passes, Lock threw a 25-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton on a fourth-and-10 play, giving Denver a first down on the 50-yard line with two seconds left.
Lock spiked the ball to stop the clock, then threw a long pass intercepted by Mike Williams, usually a receiver, but inserted on defense for the final play, at the Chargers' 1-yard line, sealing their third consecutive victory, with the go-ahead points scored on the final possession each time.
“Winning three games in a row is huge for us,'' said Herbert, who completed 21 of 33 passes for 253 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler, which gave him sole possession of the NFL rookie record.
“It took all three phases of football today -- offense, defense and special teams. Both the defense and special teams came up big time today.''
The three-game winning streak is first for the Chargers (6-9) since 2018. Denver (5-10) drove inside the Chargers' 20-yard four times, but was held to 10 points. Casey Hayward made an end-zone interception to end the Broncos' first possession after they drove to the Chargers' 16-yard line.
“Put it out between the two defenders closest to me but that ended up being behind DaeSean,'' said Lock, who completed 24 of 47 passes for 264 yards and two interceptions. “It's a play I just got to throw away, try to knife it, get up a couple yards. Went off the back of DaeSean, that's what I saw and it's one of those plays I got to get out of me.''
Denver advanced to the Chargers' 19-yard line on their second possession, where McManus' 37-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright. He also hit the left upright on a 42-yard attempt one play earlier, but the Chargers defensive tackle Justin Jones was penalized for being offside.
The Chargers were outgained, 396-316, trailed 23-16 in first downs and 33:09 in time of possession, because of the Broncos' dominant fourth quarter, where they outgained the Chargers 170-67 and led 10-3 in first downs and 10:46-4:14 in time of possession.
The Chargers were without their top defensive player, defensive end Joey Bosa, who was sidelined because of a concussion and shin injury.
Bosa was second in the AFC entering Sunday's play with 15 tackles for loss and 27 quarterback hits and leads the Chargers with 7.5 sacks. He and receiver Keenan Allen were the lone Chargers selected as 2021 Pro Bowlers, with Bosa designated as a starter for the AFC. The Pro Bowl will not be played this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Badgley kicked a 37-yard field goal to account for the first quarter's only points, five plays after Nasir Adderley returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Broncos' 39-yard line.
After being forced to punt on their next possession, the Chargers scored on each of their next two possessions, increasing their lead to 13-0. Herbert capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive with his 28th touchdown pass with 8:23 left in the second quarter. He entered the game sharing the rookie touchdown pass record with Baker Mayfield, who had 27 with the Cleveland Browns in 2018.
Badgley kicked a 43-yard field goal 2:38 before halftime, four plays after the Chargers' longest play, a 29-yard pass to Jalen Guyton that advanced the ball to Denver's 24-yard line.
The Broncos scored their first points with 5:07 left in the third quarter on McManus' 30-yard field goal.
Herbert moved closer to two other rookie records. His 21 completions gave him 374 behind the season, five behind Carson Wentz's record 379 with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. Herbert's 253 yards increased his total to 4,034, the fourth rookie to throw for more than 4,000 yards.
Andrew Luck set the rookie record with 4,374 yards in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Chargers played without their top two pass catchers. Allen missed the game because of a hamstring injury. He leads the Chargers with 100 receptions, 992 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions.
Tight end Hunter Henry was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Thursday. He is the Chargers' No. 2 receiver with 60 receptions.
“Keenan and Hunter are special players,'' Herbert said. “Any time you're down those guys, it's going to be tough, but thankfully, we had some guys step up big time.''
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