“One cheek equals two feet.”
That was the assessment by NFL rules analyst Gene Steratore when K.J. Hamler came down with the game-winning touchdown Sunday against the Chargers.
But it might as well have been the perfect metaphor for the Broncos’ 2020 season so far - just get it done however you need to, even if it’s on your a**.
“As soon as I seen the ball coming to me, the first thing I thought was, just secure the catch and fall because we’re on the one-yard line, you don’t want to run with it after, so just secure the catch and fall away,” said Hamler. “Drew put it on the money.”
But prior to that money throw/catch, however, Broncos’ fans had endured a pretty ugly game - as head coach Vic Fangio highlighted on Monday.
“You just have to start playing,” Fangio in his regular day-after presser. “We were struggling as an entire offense in that game obviously. When you’re going three and out as many times as we were, your opportunities are not going to be good. You don’t have a lot of plays and it’s not going to look good.”
Then Phillip Lindsay scampered through a hole, booked it 55 yards for a touchdown and lit a fire under the offense.
But Fangio believes the spark actually came from DaeSean Hamilton’s 3rd-and-8 catch the play before.
“I think that’s the play that got us going,” Fangio said. “If we don’t convert that and we punt, then the whole tone of this conversation today would probably be different. It just takes one play. That was a big, big play and we had a big run there by Phillip and all of a sudden, we’re back in the game.”
Lindsay also gave props to Hamilton, even admonished the media for not being too kind to the second-year receiver because of a drop last season.
“I think what you guys are really not understanding is that a big person who helped us win this game is DaeSean Hamilton,” Lindsay said. “Everybody bags on that man all the time, but you guys have to understand that man went out there and he was catching the hard passes. He was getting the hard runs. ...I hope that you guys are going to give him credit and really hype him up because that man deserves that stuff. He’s out there blocking for us, he’s out there catching it, so it was really good to see that for him.”
And of course there was Drew Lock - and his halftime pep talk that reminded the offense, and himself, there was still another half to play.
Lock noted there was definitely some yelling and screaming during the half, much-deserved but not fully productive.
“It was kind of déjà vu coming into that locker room again—all the yelling and screaming, offense isn’t playing well, blah blah blah,” he said. “I just got up in front of the offense and said, ‘Listen, it’s so easy for us to come in here and scream and yell and get mad and talk about what we’re doing bad. But we just need to man up and when the plays come our way, we need to make them, myself included. I’m not yelling at ya’ll, I’m honestly talking to myself right now—screaming at myself,’ and that’s exactly what we went out and did.”
Although it was still a rough start in the second half, that third-down conversion from Hamilton put the Chargers on notice - the offense could play.
“The plays came and there wasn’t one that we turned down,” Lock said. “Those young guys, DaeSean, the O-line, Melvin was huge, Phillip was huge. Those guys came to play and it was awesome to be the quarterback of this team today.”
It was also awesome to be on defense and see the offense take control to win the game - though Justin Simmons admitted to being a little nervous.
“As a player, you always want to be the one out there when the game is coming down to a decision, a game-winning drive, field goal or touchdown—you want to be out there,” Simmons said, offering a play-by-play like he had the drive emblazoned in his memory. “It was nerve racking, but it’s our offense. They had all the momentum the whole second half, we kept making play after play, guys were catching the ball—it was a hell of play by Melvin to get that first down, then Drew threw it up to Al in the endzone, got the PI, then we moved to first and goal on the one, and Drew found KJ. It was awesome to see man; it was awesome to see.”
It was so awesome that the hard-to-please head coach got a little choked up in his post-game speech to the team, Simmons noted.
“It was great. It was emotional. He was fired up and you can always hear the breaking in someone’s voice when you get a little emotional—he was just so proud,” Simmons said, noting that the fight in the team comes directly from the leadership at the top. “Vic was just proud because he always harps on being fighters and playing for each other and being a team. I thought that’s what we did in the second. We’re all we got in the locker room.”
It was because of the whole team coming together and fighting back for the win that Fangio chose to give one game ball - to the entire team.
“There was a lot of big plays that had to be made for that comeback to happen all the way to where it did. A lot of big plays,” Fangio said. “Bryce Callahan’s interception in the end zone was huge. That was after we threw an interception ourselves—if they get three points out of that then we might be having a different discussion today. ...There’s just so many big things that happened in that game that without one or two of them we probably don’t win.”
From Callahan’s interception to the third-down conversions from Hamilton and Jeudy, to Bradley Chubb’s timely sack on Justin Herbert to Albert Okwuegbunam drawing the PI to Hamler’s “one cheek” replacing “two feet” for a winning touchdown.
As Fangio said, Broncos “played a helluva game.”