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Week 13 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 20, Denver Broncos 23


What you need to know

Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers started off shakily, throwing an interception on the team's second possession and causing Tyrod Taylor to put his helmet on and begin warming up on the sideline. There had been rumors this week that Rivers could potentially be benched if his play didn't improve. After the rough start, the coaches stuck with him and Rivers rewarded them by getting the game tied late in regulation and putting up a solid stat line in the process.

The running back duo continued to wreak havoc on defenses, as Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined to register 177 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 35 touches. Gordon continues to dominate the rushing work, with Ekeler getting more run in the passing game.

Mike Williams was the receiving star of the day. He didn't get into the end zone like Keenan Allen did, but he did lead the team in targets and hauled in two of the biggest plays of the game for the Los Angeles offense (including a reception that temporarily saved the season, until the defense let them down shortly thereafter).

Denver Broncos

Drew Lock looked solid in his NFL debut. He and the offense capitalized on great field position after a couple of costly turnovers by the Chargers, so the yardage numbers were pretty pedestrian. Lock hooked up with receiver Courtland Sutton for two touchdowns in the 1st half, and threw one interception in the 4th quarter. Lock and Sutton also set up the game-winning field goal by drawing a pass interference penalty on a deep ball with just seconds left in the game. The penalty gave the Broncos 37 yards and allowed kicker McManus to kick the game winning field goal with 3 seconds on the clock. Halfback Lindsay was again the clear cut leader in the backfield, with 20 total touches to Freeman's 9. Tight end Jeff Heuerman returned from injury to siphon off a few of Noah Fant's targets.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 29 - 265 - 2 TD / 1 INT
Early on, it appeared as if this was going to be another long afternoon for Rivers. He threw a couple of passes away under duress, and took a sack on third down to end the opening drive. And on the team's second possession, Rivers tried setting up a screen pass to Austin Ekeler only to drop it right into the waiting arms of a defender for a very poorly-thrown interception. It got to the point that backup Tyrod Taylor had his helmet on and was actually warming up on the sideline. Rivers came back in for the ensuing series, and quickly went three and out. But the Chargers were bailed out by a roughing penalty against Denver, which kept the drive alive. Rivers engineered enough to get the team downfield for a field goal. Trailing Denver just before halftime, Rivers engineered two plays back to back that got the Chargers right back in the game. After a defender fell down, Rivers found Mike Williams deep downfield for a 52-yard gain. On the next play, he floated one perfectly down the sideline in stride to Austin Ekeler, placing it just beyond the defender. Ekeler then took it the rest of the way for the score. Late in the third quarter, Rivers threw a bullet pass over the middle to keep the drive alive. He started doing a much better job of dealing with the defensive pressure too. At one point, he had pressure all around him but managed to spin out of it and dump it off to Ekeler who picked up the first down (which was then negated by a holding penalty, which just further reinforces how poorly the Charger offensive line played; when they fail to give Rivers any time to throw and yet STILL get whistled for holding penalties, things are bad). Rivers managed to regroup late in the game and again put the team into two scoring situations. The first time, he side-stepped some light pressure and managed to find a wide open Keenan Allen wide open down the left side for a 36-yard touchdown to tie the game. Then with the team driving for the potential game-winning field goal, they found themselves facing a fourth and 1 situation. Following a false start that made it fourth and 6, Anthony Lynn opted to go for it anyway. After another false start made it fourth and 11, Lynn again decided to go for it. And with the season on the line, Rivers hoisted one down the sideline to Williams, who made a remarkable catch to haul it in and keep the drive alive. It somewhat stalled after that, but they gained enough yardage to get into range for the game-tying field goal. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the Broncos gained a chunk of yardage on their own last drive via a pass interference penalty, and the ensuing game-winning field goal ended it as time expired. Still, after opening the game 6-12 for 49 yards and an interception, Rivers then went 14-17 for 216 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover the rest of the way, salvaging his fantasy performance (and possibly his job) in the process.

RB Melvin Gordon, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 99 - 0, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (3 targets)
Gordon's first six carries of the game went for just 12 yards. There wasn't much room to roam, and the team continued feeding him the ball right up the middle with very little space. But his final 14 carries went for 87 yards, as he chewed up chunks of yardage against Denver's defense. He continuously finished strong, falling forward at the end of nearly all of his rushing attempts. He showed nice elusiveness, weaving his way in and out of tacklers when he needed to avoid contact, but also showed excellent strength in moving the pile many times. With the running game softening up the defense, it opened up the deep passing game to enable the Chargers to benefit with a couple of long scores. Gordon, however, wasn't really featured in the passing game, acting only as a checkdown option on a couple of occasions. Still, he out-touched Austin Ekeler overall on the day by a count of 22-13.

RB Austin Ekeler, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 16 - 0, Rec: 4 - 51 - 1 (5 targets)
Ekeler couldn't get much going on the ground in this one, gaining eight yards on his longest run of the game and just eight yards total on his other eight rushing attempts. But he did some damage in the passing game. Late in the half, he was in single coverage against a linebacker and easily got away from him. Rivers hoisted a floater down the sideline perfectly in stride to Ekeler, who did the rest of the work himself. He was eventually met at the goal line by two defenders, bu the managed to bang into the end zone and hold onto the ball. What was also key about that play is that it was a designed pass to Ekeler where he was the first option, not simply a check-down option. Ekeler was a bit quieter in the second half, although he had one really nice individual effort that ended up not counting. Facing a lot of pressure in the pocket, Rivers dumped off a pass to Ekeler. Despite being surrounded by defenders, Ekeler managed to weave his way up the field and pick up 11 yards and a first down. The Chargers, however, were called for holding on the play which turned a first down into third and 20.

WR Keenan Allen, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 68 - 1 (6 targets)
Allen had a mostly quiet game, punctuated with one huge play. He got wide open deep downfield and Rivers connected with him on a floater down the sideline, Allen racing up the field before leaping into the end zone at the end of the play. He was hit as he jumped, sending his body twirling up in the air before coming down in the field of play with a 36-yard score. Allen's other five receptions went for a total of just 32 yards. One of those receptions, however, came early in the second half and represented Allen passing legendary receiver Lance Alworth for fifth place on the all time Charger list for receptions.

WR Mike Williams, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 117 - 0 (7 targets)
Williams continues to be wildly efficient even with a somewhat limited target count. Despite seeing just seven targets in this game, Williams went over 100 yards and hauled in arguably the two biggest plays of the game for the Los Angeles offense. Late in the first half, his defender appeared to fall down and Williams shook loose for a 52-yard bomb. It was his seventh reception of at least 40 yards this season, which leads the league. It also helped set up the ensuing play, a touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler that put the Chargers within a touchdown. Late in the game with the Chargers season on the line and facing a fourth and 11, Rivers again looked to Williams, this time on a floater up the sideline. With a defender hanging all over him, Williams snagged the ball with one hand while pinning it against his body, somehow hanging onto it as he hit the ground. It was a truly outstanding catch, and probably the most impressive and important play by a Charger offensively this season - especially when considering the context. It got the team in range to connect for a game-tying field goal that would have sent the game to overtime, but the Charger defense allowed Denver to march down and kick the game-winner in regulation.

WR Andre Patton, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)
Patton hauled in a key third down slant late in the third quarter to convert a first down and keep the drive alive with the Chargers trailing by seven. The play itself was noteworthy to the game, but even more noteworthy is the fact that it was the first reception by a Chargers wide receiver not named Keenan Allen or Mike Williams since Week 6.

TE Hunter Henry, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (3 targets)
Henry came into the game having caught at least four passes in each game he played in this season. His first grab came early on, a short pass over the middle. But he didn't register his second catch until late in the fourth quarter with the clock winding down, and it was the extent of his involvement in the passing game.


Denver Broncos

QB Drew Lock, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 28 - 134 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 15 - 0
Lock secured a win in his first NFL start, posting a modest stat line of 134 yards as he connected with Courtland Sutton on two touchdowns in the 1st half. The first was a well-placed deep ball down the right sidelines that Sutton hauled in with a diving one-handed grab. Lock and Sutton capitalized on good field position from a Phillip Rivers interception on the next drive as they hooked up for their second touchdown of the day. Sutton lined up in the right slot and worked his way open on an out route in the back right corner of the end zone for the score. Lock telegraphed a pass for Tim Patrick in the 4th quarter and was intercepted by Denzel Perryman. Lock looked good moving around in the pocket, and picked up a couple of first downs with scrambles.

RB Phillip Lindsay, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 58 - 0, Rec: 3 - 4 - 0 (3 targets)
Lindsay led the backfield with 17 carries to Freeman's 5, but the stats just weren't there on a day that saw the Broncos often working with a short field after taking advantage of costly turnovers by the Chargers. Lindsay's longest run of the day was an impressive 15 yard scamper that saw him break away from a sure tackle right at the line of scrimmage in the 3rd. Neither Lindsay(3 targets) or Freeman(4 targets) could do anything in the passing game. Lindsay caught a screen pass for a 9 yard gain in the 1st quarter, but lost yards on his other two receptions.

RB Royce Freeman, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 11 - 0, Rec: 4 - 13 - 0 (4 targets)
Freeman continued to play a slow second fiddle to Phillip Lindsay. He received just 5 carries to Lindsay's 17, but did draw one more target(4) than Lindsay. Neither back was able to do anything with their catches despite securing all of their targets. Devontae Booker stole a few passing down snaps as well.

RB Devontae Booker
Booker didn't contribute anything offensively, but vented some frustrations on the Chargers punter as he hit hit him after a punt and drew a personal foul penalty in the 1st half.

WR Courtland Sutton, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 74 - 2 (5 targets)
Sutton bounced back after a slow week and continues a Pro Bowl caliber season despite lining up with his third quarterback of the year. His first touchdown was an amazing diving catch with one hand on a deep route down the right sideline as he fended off Casey Hayward with his left hand. Sutton and Lock hooked up again on the next drive, capitalizing on a good field position after a Phillip Rivers interception. Sutton lined up in the slot and worked his way open in the back of the end zone on an out route, where Lock found him for an easy score. Sutton did a fantastic job drawing a pass interference penalty with seconds left in the game to set the Broncos up in range for the game-winning field goal.

WR DaeSean Hamilton, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (3 targets)
Hamilton worked out of the slot but couldn't draw many looks on a day were Courtland Sutton stole the show. He secured a couple of short passes and dropped an easy completion that could have gone for a score late in the 4th quarter.

WR Tim Patrick, 32 offensive snaps (2 targets)
Patrick started on the outside opposite Sutton, but he couldn't secure his only target. Lock was "locked" in on Courtland Sutton as his go-to target, and Denver didn't have to post a lot of yards after securing a couple of turnovers with good field position.

TE Jeff Heuerman, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 15 - 0 (5 targets)
Heuerman returned from a knee injury to draw just enough targets to kill Noah Fant's fantasy value. Heuerman pulled in a crossing route to convert 3rd down late in the 1st quarter. He picked up another 3rd down conversion late in the 4th quarter with an out route from the slot.

TE Noah Fant, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (3 targets)
Fant caught Lock's first NFL completion, a modest out route early in the 1st quarter. It turned out to be Fant's only reception of the day as he could not connect on either of his other targets. Fant got his hands on a corner route in the end zone later in the 1st quarter, but had it knocked away by a solid defensive effort.

TE Andrew Beck, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)
Beck worked as a fullback and tight end. He had a nice run after the catch on a well executed tight end screen in the 1st quarter.