The Los Angeles Chargers needed a spark early in the first quarter.
Travis Benjamin delivered.
The team needed someone to make a play late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Again, Benjamin delivered.
From the 65-yard punt return touchdown the first time he touched the ball to the 42-yard touchdown catch on third down on his last reception, the speedy wide receiver sparked the Bolts to their third-straight win, a 21-0 victory over the Denver Broncos.
“It’s crazy,” Melvin Gordon said. “He is just so fast. We see it all the time in practice, but when we get a chance to see it on game day and the world gets to see it, it’s even crazier.”
“Fast, very fast,” marveled Tre Boston. “The guy is explosive. If you don’t put a hand on him, the guy can fly. He’s a slithery guy. So a guy like that, you get the ball in (his) hands and just let him run.”
Benjamin authored his fourth-career punt return for a touchdown, and the first by the Chargers since 2012, with 7:44 remaining in the opening quarter. The Broncos’ Riley Dixon mishit the ball, bouncing a 46-yarder that went to Benjamin on a line drive.
“I saw that he shanked the punt, and I felt like I could get it on the bounce,” Benjamin recalled as he described what he saw. “Once I got it, I saw they were kind of spread out. All week coach had been preaching to the punt return unit that since I am so fast, I should put my feet in the ground and get up field. Once I saw that crease, I knew I could head down to the end zone.”
The rest was history, setting off a celebration at StubHub Center. After all, there’s nothing quite like a return TD on special teams. It also makes the team thirstier to experience that high again.
“It’s big,” Benjamin admitted. “It’s a momentum push. I know that everyone on that unit wants me to score, and I want to score. Once you have 11 guys on the same page, and once you get in that end zone, they want more. Next week we hope we can get the same vision…(I’m) just getting back to my regular ways knowing that there were certain times on punt returns that punters were scared to give me the ball.”
“That was amazing,” added Keenan Allen. “Any time the offense doesn’t touch the field and (we) get six points, that’s great. Hopefully we keep it up.”
Still, Benjamin’s heroics weren’t limited just to his punt return.
On 3rd-and-11 from the Denver 42 with just under six minutes remaining in the game, Philip Rivers fired over the middle shy of the sticks to number 12. Benjamin not only turned on the jets to get the crucial first down, but raced past the entire Broncos defense on the way to the end zone.
“That play was actually a check, knowing that we never fail to get certain coverage in certain areas with (defensive backs) out of formation. He checked the offense, soft tossed it to me, and once I saw I had the angle on the safety, I knew I was going to get the corner and head to the end zone.”
“Speed,” Anthony Lynn simply said after the game. “You like speed. That’s something you can’t coach.”