DENVER — Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn pointed toward the official in the end zone who was momentarily waving his arms incomplete, hoping for that decision to be heeded.
It wasn't. Another close call that went against the Chargers.
Denver rookie receiver KJ Hamler hauled in a 1-yard TD pass while falling down in the end zone with no time left to tie the game, and Brandon McManus made the extra point as the Broncos rallied for a 31-30 win over the Chargers on Sunday.
It took a quick replay review to uphold the touchdown.
“The way we lost a game today, that is unacceptable,” Lynn said. “Everything we wanted is still in front of us. We’ve got to figure this out and turn it around soon.”
Just for Denver (3-4) to get in position for the winning score took some close calls and reviews on that final drive. There was one on an outstretched reach by former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon that awarded Denver a valuable first down. Later, there was a pivotal pass interference call in the back of the end zone with 1 second remaining that set up Drew Lock's winning toss.
To think, the Chargers (2-5) had a 24-3 in the third quarter and were seemingly in total control. Here's a telling stat: Teams when leading by 17 or more points are 52-4 this season (heading into the night game), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Chargers? They're now 0-3.
It’s the fifth time in franchise history the Chargers have blown a lead of 21 or more.
The Broncos had just about everything fall right on their 14-play, 81-yard drive that consumed the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
Gordon made a one-handed catch on third-and-5 at the Chargers 29, where as he was falling down he extended the football. He was ruled short, but the video replay showed Gordon made the first down.
Then the Chargers had a chance to end the game with the Broncos facing fourth-and-4 at the LA 18 with 7 seconds left. Lock lofted a pass toward tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the back of the end zone with Chargers defensive back Brandon Facyson blanketed all over him.
As Facyson celebrated breaking up the play, an official threw a flag for pass interference. It gave the Broncos the ball at the 1 with a second remaining.
“That was just a tough call,” Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins said. “That could’ve gone either way.”
With one last play, Lock rolled to his right and tossed a pass to an open Hamler, who secured the ball as he fell to the ground to tie the game. Hamler celebrated as the officials discussed the catch. After a review, the touchdown was upheld. After the extra point, there was some pushing and shoving.
It was just that kind of loss for the Chargers.
“It’s the NFL, man, games come down to the wire,” running back Justin Jackson said. “When we’re ahead, we’ve got to try to keep putting the points on them, keep that spread up and help the defence out. Like I said, it’s the NFL. You’ve got to go out there and win the game at the end.”
The loss overshadowed the performance of Justin Herbert, who threw for 278 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. He joined Houston’s Deshaun Watson as the only rookie QBs in NFL history with four straight games with three or more touchdowns.
“It doesn’t really matter how well I played, or how poorly I played. We lost,” Herbert said. “We didn’t get it done.”
The Chargers' defence held the Broncos to two first downs and 60 yards in the first half. But then Lock and the Broncos woke up, beginning with Phillip Lindsay's 55-yard TD run midway through the third quarter.
Asked what it's going to take to close out these tight games, receiver Keenan Allen candidly responded: “I wish I knew the answers. I thought we played well the first three quarters. I don’t know how we get the ‘W.’”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Pat Graham, The Associated Press