The Broncos became the be-all to end-all.
In a game that should evermore be acclaimed The Mile High Marvel and The Butt Call, the Broncos would fall back, then spring forward as time stood still Sunday.
On the final, bonus play Drew Lock threw to KJ Hamler in the end zone, and the Broncos upended the Chargers from the 1-yard line for a one-point victory, No. 1 at home this season.
The last time the Broncos won in Denver was Dec. 29 of 2019 when the world was normal, and the Raiders lost 16-15.
This year is abnormal and unlike any other, and so was the Broncos-Chargers ending.
Behind 24-3 in the third quarter after being booed off the field at halftime by the sparse crowd, limited because of COVID-19 protocols, the Broncos finally reunited when Phillip Lindsay broke free for a 55-yard touchdown.
Then, down 30-24, the Broncos set off on a 2-minute, 30-second remarkable adventure for 81 yards that resulted in a touchdown and extra-point kick that made the difference in the game, the season and possibly the future of the team.
This surreal triumph was the Broncos’ best and brightest since Super Bowl 50.
A massive, full moon hung over the Rocky Mountains on Sunday evening, and everyone knew it would soon turn predominantly orange.
“We won a hell of a game,’’ said coach Vic Fangio, who suffered a busted nose on the sideline in a collision of players during the game. He was suffering more in the first half when the Broncos played like buzzard breath. Was it bad, coach? “Worse than that.’’
The Bronco couldn’t pass, and they couldn’t defend, and they couldn’t run, and they couldn’t hide.
Death by inches, ha!
In the end, though, it was life by a yard!
After ineptness, incompetence and an interception by the young Broncos’ quarterback in comparison to Chargers’ rookie Justin Herbert, the entire crowd, including the cutouts, was prepared to tell Lock: "Grab a flag and act like you’re leading a parade when you are chased out of town.’’
Lock would say later: “Nobody is harder on me than I am.’’
However, Lock eventually would outperform the Chargers’ Phenom and be cheered by fickle fans as a Marvel Superhero. Herbert completed 29 of 43 for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Lock was 26 of 41 for 248 yards and three touchdowns, but Herbert was intercepted twice and Lock once, and the QB rating was 94.4-87.1 Lock and the scoreboard screamed Lock.
Before the closing drive, the Broncos were the only team in the NFL that hadn’t converted a fourth down in 2020. They still are.
On fourth-and-4 at the Chargers' 18-yard line with just seven seconds left, Lock had to fling into the end zone and searched for his Mizzou teammate. Albert Okwuegbunam did not make the reception, but he drew a pass interference on Chargers cornerback Brandon Facyson.
The ball was placed on the 1-yard line with 1 second showing.
Coordinator Pat Shurmur told Lock on his headphone to run a play the Broncos have practiced often for a 2-point conversion, but never used in a game. The Broncos came out in a packed formation, with Jerry Jeudy spread wide left and Hamler between Jeudy and left tackle Garret Bolles and back three steps. As Lock, in the shotgun, was receiving the snap the rookie Hamler ran directly in front of him and cut around the corner, racing to the end zone by the right boundary. He turned around immediately and was slipping.
Lock rolled right out of the backfield and spied Hamler. Hamler’s defender, strong safety Rayshawn Jenkins, believed Lock would sprint for the score, so he left Hamler totally open and ran toward Lock, who fired a strike at the receiver, who was falling on his backside as he caught the ball.
The back judge at the rear corner of the end zone signaled incomplete pass, game over. However, the line judge, who was closer outside the end zone cone, rushed up and said Hamler had gotten down inbounds. A touchdown was called, and the review proved that Hamler indeed had a serious body part properly positioned.
The Butt Call was, as Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet,’’ not, appropriately “Hamler,’’ the be-all and end-all in the Mile High Marvel.