The Chargers are 4-2 after a 19-16 overtime win against the Broncos on Monday night.
Here are five takeaways from Week 6:
1. Hopkins grits it out before game-winning FG
Moments after Dustin Hopkins drilled a 39-yard field goal to win in overtime Monday night, the kicker's teammates lifted him toward the sky in celebration.
Truth be told, Hopkins likely wouldn't have minded if they carried him all the way off the field.
Hopkins hit four field goals against Denver in a 19-16 win, but fought through a painful hamstring injury to his kicking leg to help the Bolts secure a win and improve to 4-2.
"You can't say enough about him hanging in there," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said of Hopkins, who made four field goals and an extra point on the night.
Hopkins injured his hamstring early in the game, which forced punter JK Scott to take kickoffs. That allowed the kicker to conserve his energy and try to stay loose, which proved necessary on primetime.
As he lined up for his game-winning try, Hopkins said he was all-in despite the injury,
"In my mind, it was already at a point where it was a, 'Well, screw it' moment," Hopkins said. "Pretty much, if it's already feeling this bad at this point, let's just give it a ride."
Hopkins' 39-yarder was his longest kick of the night, but he had three other kicks go through from 37, 31 and 35 yards out. He said postgame his yardage range was in the 30s.
"That's not super long, but it felt a lot longer when you're not feeling good," Hopkins said. "I didn't think about the distance or any external things."
After each kick, Hopkins seemed to take a knee in pain, but managed to power through.
His teammates came away impressed.
"We have so much respect for him. We know that he is hurting. That's the great part about the NFL is those guys, they are committed to our team," said quarterback Justin Herbert. "He's tough. That's all you can say about him. For him to go out there and play and put up with some pain like that, it's great to see from him."
Derwin James, Jr., added: "Florida State. It's in him, man. That's Nole-blooded. D-Hop is Florida State, I knew he was going to make it."
JK Scott said: "I'm so proud of him. There's a lot of things about Dustin that inspire me and encourage me. Today was just an example of that. For him to be able to still kick the ball the way he did in the game — with a leg that wasn't good — it was really impressive. He made every single kick."
Hopkins has now made nine of 10 field goal tries this season.
Get an inside look at the Chargers celebrating their Week 6, 19-16 win over the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium!
2. Taylor, Leonard turn tide on special teams
Hopkins' heroics were only made possible by a game-changing play on special teams.
With both offenses stuck in the mud in overtime, the Chargers recorded their lone takeaway halfway through the extra period.
Scott unleashed a booming 48-yard punt that Denver's Montrell Washington tried to corral at the 32-yard line. But Chargers rookie Ja'Sir Taylor made a heads up play by blocking P.J. Locke into Washington, who muffed a punt that rookie Deane Leonard pounced on.
"Once I saw the fair catch and saw him relax, his teammate was standing right in front of him," Taylor said. "Instead of just letting him catch it, I decided to just make a play and bump the defender into him."
"It feels good. I'm just making the most of my role," Taylor later added. "I'm a special teams player, I got out there, give it my all and I'm glad it paid off tonight."
Leonard explained the technique Taylor used, and what he saw on the play.
"We knew we were backed up and they were going to send pressure. Our coach was telling us the returner was dangerous and an explosive guy, so we had to get on his hip," Leonard said. "Ja' made a great play and dumped the other corner. The ball fell right in front of me and I got on it.
"It's called 'dumping,' it's a drill we do," Leonard added about Taylor's maneuver. "It sounds dumb, but it was a big turnover in the game."
The takeaway changed the tide of the game, as Leonard recovered at the Denver 28-yard line, which set up Hopkins' game-winner four plays later.
"Ja'Sir and Deane were able to get down there and make something happen," Staley said. "The fact that you go beat your man, and then you go do the right thing when you get close to the returner.
"Those are young guys, so for them to make that type of impact for our football team says a lot about [Special Teams Coordinator] Ryan Ficken and [Assistant Special Teams Coach] Chris Gould," Staley added. "Hopefully, those guys continue to improve."
3. Bolts defense shines in 2nd half
The early results weren't pretty for the Chargers defense.
The Broncos racked up 169 yards of total offense in the first half on just 23 plays, good for over 7.3 yards per play.
Denver had three pass plays of at least 37 yards, including on back-to-back snaps late in the first quarter. The second one went for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
"Well, we didn't have our best stuff in the first half on defense," said linebacker Drue Tranquill. "Came out and played a lot better in the second half."
That's an understatement, as the Bolts limited the Broncos to just 89 net yards on 32 plays, good for an average of just 2.8 yards per play.
Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson completed his first 10 pass attempts Monday, but only hit on five of his next 18 attempts.
Staley swelled with pride while reading off Denver's possessions after halftime.
"In the second half, punt-punt-punt, field goal after a takeaway, three-and-out, punt-punt-punt," Staley said. "Our defense came to play tonight."
Perhaps the biggest sequence came in the fourth quarter when the Broncos took over at the Chargers 30 after an interception. But the Denver offense didn't gain a single yard and had to settled for a long field goal that gave the Chargers offense a chance later in the game.
The Bolts allowed a season-low 16 points in nearly 70 minutes of game action.
"When we came in at halftime and gave up those cheap 10 points, we weren't satisfied and we weren't happy," James said. "Because it was just like two loose plays that we could've been better on. We didn't like that, and we ended up putting it together."
4. Offense does just enough
The Bolts talked all week about the respect they had for Denver's defense, and that was on display Monday night.
The Chargers were held to a season-low 297 yards of total offense in a game that saw ebbs and flows on both sides.
"It was a tough, rugged game. They have an outstanding defense over there," Staley said. "It was tough sledding in every way for all four quarters and overtime. It was just a tough and rugged game."
The Chargers lone touchdown drive came in the second quarter when the Bolts went 82 yards in 15 plays and chewed up nearly eight minutes of game clock.
But the Bolts came through when it mattered most, finding the end zone when they were down 10-0.
"The average yards-per-play was pretty low on that drive. For us to be able to put a drive like that together, I thought the offensive line did a great job moving the ball," Herbert said.
The offense started slow on third downs, missing out on their first three chances, before ratting off nine conversions in their next 11 tries.
Sitting at 9-for-14 on third downs, however, the offense couldn't get much going and finished an even 11-for -22 on the night.
"They have a great defense and they are really well-coached. That's kind of the game that we knew we were going into, it's going to be a battle," Herbert said. "They could easily be 5-0 prior to this game. We had to just take what they gave us. It's obviously not pretty, not the way we want to win, but a win is a win and we love to take it."
Herbert attempted 57 passes, the second-highest of his career, but did not throw a touchdown. He threw for 238 yards and had a passer rating of 66.3.
5. Staley explains Bolts final drive
The Chargers had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, and the sequence that followed made sure Denver wouldn't have that same chance.
With the ball at their own 25 and all three timeouts, the Bolts took over with 1 minute and 51 seconds left in regulation.
They converted on a third-and-5, but couldn't do the same on third-and-1 from their own 44 with just over 30 seconds left.
Herbert hit Zander Horvath for no gain that kept the clock kept running, allowing Staley to call a timeout with one tick left.
Herbert's Hail Mary attempt was short of the end zone.
"We wanted to finish with the ball, for sure. We wanted to make something happen. It was tight," Staley said. "We wanted to get that third-and-short, in order to give ourselves an opportunity to take a timeout there, and then proceed, but it just didn't work that way.
"It was tough out there. The protection was tight, there wasn't a lot of room, so we just wanted to make sure that we finished the game with the football and that they didn't get another crack at it," Staley added. "After we didn't make that third-and-one, the thinking was let's take a timeout at one [second remaining] and see if we can make a Hail Mary there at the end of the game."
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