2022 NFL season, Week 6: What We Learned from Chargers’ win over Broncos on Monday

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1.Don’t ever question the toughness of Dustin Hopkins. The Chargers kicker exited the game due to a hamstring injury suffered on his first kick of the night, an extra point following an Austin Ekeler touchdown. When the team deemed him questionable to return in the first half, it was reasonable to believe his night was done. What the Chargers likely didn’t realize in that moment was just how much they’d need their kicker Monday. Hopkins quickly re-entered the action, sneaking a 37-yard field goal inside the left upright and falling down while grimacing in pain immediately after sending the ball through the goal post. His field goal tied the game at 10 and was only the first of four crucial kicks. Each required Hopkins to fight through the pain, and each ended up putting three points on the board. The last of the four kicks — all attempted between 31 and 39 yards out — was the most important, lifting the Chargers to a 19-16 overtime win that seemed destined for a tie until a muffed punt gave Los Angeles a chance at victory. When it was all finished, Hopkins told ESPN’s Lisa Salters he felt a pop on the PAT in which he was injured. But thanks to his resilience and the warmth of a Hyperice heating wrap, Hopkins was able to fight through the pain to kick the Chargers to victory.

2.If only for a quarter, vintage Russell Wilson resurfaced. Denver’s offense has been stuck neck-deep in mud for most of the 2022 season, but for a brief moment in the first quarter, Wilson rediscovered his ability to extend plays and find open targets downfield. Wilson ripped a bullet to Jerry Jeudy down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain on third-and-13, pushing the Broncos into Chargers territory. On the very next play, Wilson again escaped the pocket and fired a dart to rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, who had plenty of green turf ahead of him, catching and running 39 yards for his first career touchdown. In that moment, Broncos fans suddenly had reason to think the Wilson they believed they received from Seattle had finally arrived. That was it, though. Denver’s offense returned to the cellar, and Wilson completed just 3 of his final 11 passes in the second half and overtime. The Broncos put just three points on the board in the second half and never came close to entering Brandon McManus’ range for a game-winning field goal. The glimmer of hope appeared Monday night, and just as quickly, it was gone, sending the Broncos to a once-unimaginable 2-4 after six weeks.

3.Denver’s defense still deserves better. The Broncos entered Week 6 with the league’s third-ranked defense, a unit that stood tied for fourth in scoring and first in passing. They’re good — really good — and yet, they continue to be disappointed by Denver’s offense. The Broncos shut down the Chargers for much of the night, holding Los Angeles to 297 total yards of offense and just 73 yards on the ground. With Keenan Allen out of action for another week and Patrick Surtain locking down Mike Williams, Denver essentially eliminated the deep ball from the Chargers’ offense. Justin Herbert threw 57 passes, and the vast majority of them were checkdowns. Baron Browning was a menace, recording one sack and catching a deflected pass for an interception. This formula should produce wins for the Broncos. Instead, they lost another frustrating game because their offense cannot come close to shouldering its share of the responsibility. Nathaniel Hackett was hired for his offensive mind, and he’s all but failed the test repeatedly through six weeks.

4.Chargers aren’t getting a quality return on their J.C. Jackson investment. Khalil Mack, Los Angeles’ other big-time offseason acquisition, is quietly compiling a season worthy of Comeback Player of the Year consideration, but the main addition from the Chargers’ offseason (Jackson) has been a tremendous disappointment. Jackson was out of position frequently in Monday night’s game, so much that after playing 23 snaps in the first half, he was benched for Michael Davis in the second half and overtime. Davis ended up playing nine more snaps than Jackson, while Asante Samuel played every defensive snap and Bryce Callahan was on the field for over 76% of snaps. Jackson spent the final two quarters plus overtime watching from the sideline. Credit is due to the Chargers’ coaching staff, which ignored the five-year, $82.5 million deal Jackson signed and replaced him with a player it could trust more to get the job done. This benching will become a storyline we’ll continue to monitor, and the Chargers will hope Jackson can turn things around. Right now, though, it’s not looking good for the former Patriot.

5.Dirty laundry, everywhere. The Broncos established a reputation for being a sloppy, disorganized team well before Monday night arrived, so it was no surprise to see them commit 10 accepted penalties for 151 yards. What was surprising, however, was how closely the Chargers matched the Broncos when it came to infractions. There were 147 combined penalty yards in the first half Monday, the most in any first half since Week 3 of the 2018 season in a game between the Steelers and Buccaneers (156), per NFL Research. The game finished with 240 combined penalty yards. These two teams took sloppy to the next level, and when combined with their lack of offensive production, this game sure felt like it was headed toward a tie until a muffed punt put the Chargers in scoring range. Thankfully, Hopkins’ injured leg produced an outcome other than a tie. But for the prime-time stage, it was a pretty ugly performance that both teams will want to correct quickly — especially if they hope to keep pace with the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Next Gen Stat of the game: After racking up 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns on passes of 10-plus air yards in the first five weeks of the season, Mike Williams did not catch any of his four such targets Monday night. Justin Herbert, meanwhile, completed just 4 of 12 such passes for 67 yards.

NFL Research: With a rushing touchdown in the second quarter, Austin Ekeler became the eighth player in NFL history with 25-plus rushing touchdowns and 25-plus receiving touchdowns in his career. He’s also only the second player to reach those marks within his first six NFL seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Lenny Moore.