Chargers’ special teams actually special in victory over Broncos

COSTA MESA — The Chargers were stalled midway through the 10-minute overtime period against the Denver Broncos on Monday night, stuck at their own 20-yard line after a 6-yard pass play from Justin Herbert to running back Austin Ekeler gave them a little extra breathing room.

JK Scott trotted onto the field on fourth down with a simple task: Punt the ball down the field and get the Chargers out of trouble after a second failed possession in OT. He had done it once already, booming a 54-yard punt that necessitated Montrell Washington’s fair catch at Denver’s 31.

This time, Scott thumped the ball high, but not as far. The hang time was what made the 48-yard punt so effective, roughly 5.5 seconds from the time his foot struck the ball until it reached Washington. Another fair catch was signaled and that’s when things went haywire for Denver.

Scott’s extra hang time enabled the Chargers’ Ja’Sir Taylor to race downfield in plenty of time to shove would-be Broncos blocker P.J. Locke into an unsuspecting Washington, causing a muff that was recovered by Deane Leonard at Denver’s 28-yard line with 4:46 left in OT.

That special teams sequence set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning 39-yard field goal with 2:38 left, a hard-earned victory that extended the Chargers’ winning streak to three in a row, improved their record to 4-2 and enabled them to tie the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West lead.

Special teams play has cost the Chargers victories in the past, especially an unreliable kicking game, but not this time, not on Monday night. Special teams play, with Scott’s punting and heads-up plays by Taylor and Leonard followed by Hopkins’ kick, produced a 19-16 victory.

“I’m happy for (Taylor) and the rest of the guys and for the team to have that kind of success and have it carry over and translate into helping our team win a game,” Chargers special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken said Thursday. “I’m happy to see the growth in those guys. It was exciting to watch.”

Taylor and Leonard executed their roles well, and Scott set them up with his punt.

“His elite trait is hang time,” Ficken said of Scott. “That’s why it was very intriguing to bring him in here (as a free agent). I really liked him while watching him when he was in Green Bay, and going against him.  He’s a very, very elite punter, with the hang time and distance.

“That (hang time) can be the difference between a fair catch and a returned ball. I mean, it’s a difference of several yards. It’s a complement of good distance, where we’re not outkicking the coverage. We talked about it all week, how our punting unit had to complement each other.”

Hopkins’ injured hamstring was another issue. Could he convert with the game on the line? How would his injury impact his range and accuracy? Scott had handled the kickoffs and was prepared to fill in for Hopkins on field-goal attempts, if needed. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel would have replaced Scott as the holder.

“I wouldn’t say it was difficult because we had actually gone through it and worked JK doing kickoffs and field goals that week leading into (Monday),” Ficken said. “We had been practicing with the backup holders, backup snappers in all situations. You never want it to come to that, but those guys were ready.”

Related Articles

Los Angeles Chargers |

Chargers’ J.C. Jackson keeps starting job after benching

Los Angeles Chargers |

Chargers review: Injuries, J.C. Jackson’s play worrisome after beating Broncos

Los Angeles Chargers |

Swanson: Injured Chargers kicker Dustin Hopkins saves the day

Los Angeles Chargers |

Dustin Hopkins, Chargers give Broncos the boot in overtime

Los Angeles Chargers |

Chargers prepare to face Broncos QB Russell Wilson at his best

Hopkins, who was named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking field goals of 31, 35, 37 and 39 yards Monday, will be sidelined for between two and four weeks. Taylor Bertolet will replace Hopkins for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium.


When wide receiver Joshua Palmer smacked his head on the SoFi Stadium turf after trying to make a catch on the first play of the game Monday, it was apparent something was wrong. He raised his hands to his head and, moments later, entered the blue medical tent on the sideline.

Palmer was checked out and cleared to return to the game. He finished with nine catches for a team-leading 57 yards, participating in 81 of the Chargers’ 93 offensive snaps. But by the time he arrived for practice Wednesday, he had concussion symptoms and was sidelined.

It’s unlikely he’ll play Sunday against the Seahawks. Players diagnosed with concussions must take a number of precautionary steps before they’re cleared to practice at full speed or play in a game, starting with performing a physical activity such as riding a stationary bike without symptoms.

Share the Post:

Related Posts