Chargers blow 21-point lead and lose when Broncos score on final play – Press Enterprise

Referring to the Denver Broncos as Justin Herbert’s toughest challenge might sound strange without context. The Chargers’ rookie quarterback had already faced the Buccaneers’ vaunted defense, played a prime-time game in New Orleans and battled the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs in his debut.

But Sunday in Denver was Herbert’s toughest challenge because the Chargers needed this game badly. They entered Empower Field at Mile High with a seven-game losing streak against AFC West opponents.

The difficulty level increased when a familiar obstacle arrived in the fourth quarter. The Chargers were clinging to a double-digit lead, losing grip with each passing minute in a game that was in their control entering the final quarter.

Herbert helped the Chargers build a 24-3 advantage, but a Broncos rally had him on the sideline as quarterback Drew Lock operated a game-winning drive. The Chargers inexplicably lost 31-30 and somehow topped their other heart-breaking losses this season.

“I wish I knew the answers,” Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen said about the latest blown lead.

The Chargers (2-5) haven’t defeated a division rival since the 2018 regular-season finale, but that losing streak was an afterthought Sunday. The focus was on the lost 21-point advantage.

The Chargers became the first team in NFL history to blow leads of 16 points or more in four consecutive games. Not even the Atlanta Falcons know that type of pain. The Chargers dropped to 3-14 in one-score games dating back to the start of last season.

“I’m sorry,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said to fans who have endured many blown leads under his watch. “I feel bad. That game today we had it completely under control, and the way we lost that game today that is unacceptable and I take full responsibility for that.”

The Chargers let their final finger slip from the game after Lock connected with wide receiver K.J. Hamler for a 1-yard touchdown pass with zeros on the clock. Even the game-winning extra-point featured Chargers chaos with an illegal formation penalty.

With a six-point deficit and 2:24 left in regulation, Lock led the Broncos on the 81-yard drive and had help from former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who converted a key first down at the Chargers’ 24-yard line.

The Chargers’ defense, which has struggled in crunch time this season, nearly had a stop when Lock had an incomplete pass on fourth down, but cornerback Brandon Facyson was called for a questionable pass interference. Lock found Hamler on the following play.

Lynn settled for a 33-yard Michael Badgley field goal before the Broncos completed the rally. The Broncos had three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and trailed 24-10 with less than 12 minutes left in regulation.

“To not make the plays in the fourth quarter to finish the game is very disappointing, very frustrating,” Lynn said.

The Chargers lost their third game of the season when leading by at least 17 points. In four of their five losses this season, the Chargers held double-digit leads.

The Broncos made it interesting when running back Phillip Lindsay galloped for a 55-yard touchdown to trim the Chargers’ lead to 24-10 with 6:05 left in the third quarter. The Broncos made it a seven-point deficit after Lock found tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the end zone with 11:42 left in regulation.

The Chargers scored 24 consecutive points after allowing a Broncos field goal in the first quarter.

Herbert and the Chargers’ offense shook off a slow start during a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive toward the end of the first half. Herbert connected with Allen on a 9-yard touchdown pass and had a 34-yard pass to running back Justin Jackson to ignite the team’s first scoring drive.

The Chargers scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half. Hebert threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie fullback Gabe Nabers with 15 seconds left before halftime. The Chargers went into the locker room with a 14-3 advantage after Naber’s first career score.

Herbert continued his trend of getting many players involved. Wide receivers Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson and tight end Donald Parham Jr. also recorded their first career touchdowns from a Hebert pass.

Herbert finished 29 of 43 for 278 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Lock went 26 of 41 for 248 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

It wasn’t Herbert’s best performance, but he led the Chargers to 30 points, 485 yards and the rushing attack had a season-high 210 yards.

The Chargers led in most statistical categories, but they’re the ones left speechless after another frustrating game.

“We gotta find ways to win,” said wide receiver Mike Williams, who had a team-high 99 receiving yards, five catches and one touchdown. “It’s the NFL. It’s gonna come down to situations like these in this league. We just gotta find ways to win.”

The Chargers have been in many close-game situations since Lynn took over as head coach in 2017. Lynn expressed disappointment for his players and frustration at himself for not having the answers on how to close games after nearly four seasons.

The Chargers badly needed this one. Now, Lynn and the Chargers are in a desperate situation.

“It didn’t do me any good to go into the locker room and give these guys a speech and beat these guys up,” Lynn said. “These guys feel bad right now. These coaches feel bad right now. And I gotta get this team’s spirit back up.”





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