When Montrell Washington muffed that punt with just over five minutes remaining in overtime, here’s what Troy Aikman had to say about the Denver Broncos:
“The previous play they had 10 men on the field. On this play, they ran into each other.”
One of the other Broncos’ special teamers, P.J Locke, was so close to Washington that the Chargers’ Ja’Sir Taylor pushed him into his teammate, causing the turnover.
That about sums up the entire 2022 season for the Denver Broncos. Lately, however, it hasn’t gone much better for L.A. Left tackle Rashawn Slater is done for the year, and the team played its divisional foe without wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Corey Linsley. The effects of those inactives showed all night, especially on that last overtime drive when the Chargers almost got knocked out of field goal range.
Then finally, on 3rd-and-long, L.A.’s rising star quarterback Justin Herbert used some fancy footwork to buy some time. While the completed pass didn’t result in a first down, the positive play meant that the game-winning field goal would only be 39 yards.
That is certainly a makeable distance for an NFL placekicker. However, the Chargers’ kicker,
Dustin Hopkins, hurt his hamstring earlier in the game while booting an extra point. Hopkins had already dealt with a quad injury that kept him sidelined in Week 5 and while warming up, he was wearing something on his leg that looked like a thigh-sized blood pressure gauge. Hopkins was even dropping to the ground in pain after each field goal attempt against Denver.
Still, he was perfect on the day (4/4 on FGs, 1/1 on XPs), and at the end of the night, it wasn’t just the Chargers who needed him to make that field goal. It was everyone not named Russell Wilson, Lewis Hamilton, or others interested in the Broncos’ success. The time had come for this game to end.
In the first quarter, Wilson looked like his Seattle Seahawks self. He was buying time and making big throws. That pass to K.J. Hamler looked like Wilson was at eye level with a defensive lineman’s chest. After the Broncos scored on a long pass play, Herbert and the Chargers countered with a long touchdown drive, and the game began to look like the old-school vs. new-school quarterback duel that ESPN was hoping for when this game was scheduled for Monday Night Football.
A great start, but as the game progressed, it got uglier, and uglier, and uglier. Yellow flags covered the turf. Pass rushes were doing their best to swallow Wilson and Herbert whole. Wilson even tried some desperation quarterback keepers in the second half, but to no avail. A 70-degree evening in Los Angeles could’ve been spent in many better places than SoFi Stadium, even on a Monday night in October. I hope someone found a fun place for Sir Hamilton of Formula 1 fame to hang out later.
Not a single first down was gained in overtime and this game was destined for a tie. Another look at the Broncos’ two-minute offense and ESPN should’ve been charged with cruel and unusual punishment.
But Hopkins wasn’t going to let the game end in a tie. He ripped off that sleeve, ate the timeout spent to ice him, and he hit the turf again after making contact with the ball. However, also once again, his attempt was successful.
While the Broncos are certainly miserable falling to 2-4, the rest of us got to experience enormous relief once that game finally ended. Hopkins is living proof not all heroes wear capes — or wristbands with the plays inside.
Some just keep kicking until they can no longer stand, so their country can then finally turn off that eyesore of a performance. This Bud’s for you, Dustin Hopkins. An American hero for the evening of Oct. 17, 2022.