DENVER — With a quarterback who had been sidelined all season because of injuries finally being on the field for his first NFL game and having the ball deep in his own territory little time left in a tie game, conventional wisdom would be to take a knee to set up overtime.
Boy, Denver coach Vic Fangio must have a lot of confidence in that QB, Missouri product Drew Lock.
The Broncos got the ball at their 28 with 9 seconds left after the Los Angeles Chargers had just tied the game Sunday with a field goal.
"Just take a knee,” coach Vic Fangio said of what offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello wanted Lock to do.
“And I said no," Fangio recalled. "I said, 'Let's go down the sideline and see what happens.’"
What happened was receiver Courtland Sutton collided with cornerback Casey Hayward Jr.
“I thought it was 'OPI' (offensive pass interference),” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
Nope, it was defensive pass interference. The Chargers argued vehemently about the call that gave the Broncos the ball at the Chargers 35-yard line with 3 seconds remaining, allowing Brandon McManus to kick a 53-yard field goal as time expired to give Denver a 23-20 victory.
Lock’s NFL debut included a pair of touchdown throws to Sutton, but just 134 yards passing. But there was that key 37 yard gain on the key penalty.
“I thought beating Arkansas my junior year was really cool,” said Lock, a second-round pick last spring. “But winning your first start is definitely a little cooler.”
All that came after Phillip Rivers drove the Chargers (4-8) to the tying field goal, a 46-yarder by Michael Badgley with 14 seconds left. It looked as if the game was headed to overtime when Diontae Spencer returned the kickoff 26 yards to the Denver 28.
“We had a thought of kneeling at first,” Lock said. “But we saw Spencer bring it out the way he did. So we thought, all right, let’s try to get to the 50, a little past the 50 and give Brandon a chance.”
The Chargers continued jawing with the Broncos and the officiating crew as the Broncos (4-8) ran onto the field following McManus’ winner.
Rivers overcame an early interception, his eighth in three games, and a 17-3 deficit with touchdown throws of 30 yards to Austin Ekeler and 36 yards to Keenan Allen. Rivers completed a 38-yard pass to Mike Williams on fourth-and-11 in the closing minutes to get the Chargers in range for the tying field goal that set up the late fireworks.