News & Analysis

NFL Week 16 PFF ReFocused: Los Angeles Chargers 19, Denver Broncos 16

Dec 27, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Herbert needed just one passing touchdown to break the rookie record with 28, and he did just that in the Los Angeles Chargers 19-17 victory over their division rival Denver Broncos. It was not a pretty game, but the Chargers were able to extend their winning streak to three, while the Broncos fell to last in the AFC West.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

Herbert completed 21 of 33 passes for 253 yards and one score but did have two turnover-worthy plays despite owning the fifth-lowest average depth of target (6.6) this week. However, his play was good enough to propel the Chargers to their sixth win on the year, despite the running game being absent for much of the contest. 

Austin Ekeler totaled just 45 yards on 10 carries — though he did have a receiving score — and Kalen Ballage and Justin Jackson combined for 18 yards on six attempts. With Keenan Allen out due to injury, the receiving corps was lackluster. Mike Williams led the group with four receptions for 54 yards, three drops and no touchdowns, but he did come down with the game-sealing interception off a desperate Hail Mary heave by Drew Lock

Dec 27, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) runs with the ball as Denver Broncos inside linebacker A.J. Johnson (45) defends during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Neither offensive line conceded a sack, but both were equally ineffective. The Broncos unit allowed a 26% pressure rate, while the Chargers sat at 32%. Lock’s struggles continued — he simply wasn't above average in any facet. He was 1-for-4 in the red zone with an interception and 8-for- 23 on throws 10-plus yards downfield with another interception. He did have a scamper into the end zone on five rushes but was largely inefficient throughout the bout. 

Lock's receivers did not do him any favors, as rookie Jerry Jeudy caught just six of 15 targets for 61 yards with four drops. DaeSean Hamilton was the best of the group, hauling in five catches for 77 yards and four first downs, with three of his receptions going for 15-plus yards. 

In the end, it came down to the two signal-callers who are going down different career trajectories. Herbert is a rising star who seems to have cemented the QB room for the Chargers, while Lock is now fighting to just earn another chance at the starting spot next season. 

ROOKIE WATCH

There were only three rookies for either side who saw significant playing time. For the Broncos, center Lloyd Cushenberry III enjoyed one of his best pass-blocking performances, allowing just one pressure on 51 snaps in pass protection. Defensively, cornerback Michael Ojemudia allowed all three of the passes thrown his way to be caught for 31 yards and three first downs. 

On the Chargers' side, first-round linebacker Kenneth Murray struggled in coverage, allowing four receptions on four targets for 48 yards and three first downs. He was a mixed bag against the run, with five total tackles and three defensive stops but also missing two tackles. 

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