Herbert, Roberts propel Chargers back into playoff position

Justin Herbert threw for two touchdowns and set the franchise single-season record

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Justin Herbert threw for two touchdowns and set the franchise single-season record, Andre Roberts returned a kick 101 yards for a score, and the Los Angeles Chargers moved back into an AFC playoff spot with a 34-13 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

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Los Angeles (9-7) is in the final wild-card spot but needs a win at Las Vegas next week to wrap up its first postseason berth since 2018. The Colts, Chargers and Raiders all have the same record, but the Chargers currently hold the tiebreaker over Las Vegas after their 28-14 victory on Oct. 4.

Denver (7-9) has lost four of its last five, was eliminated from playoff contention and is assured of its fifth straight losing season.

Herbert, the AFC starter for the Pro Bowl, has 35 touchdown passes this season, surpassing Philip Rivers' 2008 mark of 34. Herbert tied it with 14 seconds remaining in the first half on an 8-yard throw to Keenan Allen to give the Bolts a 17-0 lead. He set the mark early in the fourth quarter on a 45-yard TD to Mike Williams, which put the Chargers up 34-6.

Herbert completed 22 of 31 passes for 237 yards. He became the fastest player to reach 800 career completions (31 games) and at 23 years, 298 days is the second-youngest player in league history to get to 65 TD passes.

Roberts became the first Charger since 2012 to score on a kickoff return. After Brandon McManus kicked his second field goal, Roberts got blocks from Chris Rumph II and Jalen Guyton to set up a lane on the right side of the field. Roberts then got a double-team block from Stephen Anderson and Cole Christiansen to spring him the rest of the way.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Andre Roberts (7) returns a kick for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Andre Roberts (7) returns a kick for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The fourth-longest kickoff return in franchise history snapped a 143-game drought. Michael Spurlock was the last to do it in the 2012 regular-season finale against the Raiders.

Denver's Drew Lock was 18 of 25 for 245 yards and a touchdown. Noah Fant had six receptions for 92 yards, including a 5-yard score midway through the fourth quarter.

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FOURTH-AND-GOAL FAILURES

Denver went twice on fourth-and-goal inside the LA 5-yard line but came up short.

Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, the Broncos drove to the Chargers 2-yard line. Lock handed off to Mike Boone, who then flipped the ball to Kendall Hinton. Chargers safety Nasir Adderley hit Hinton as he passed the ball, but Lock went down to one knee to catch it at the 7.

Despite the off-balance pass, Lock had a path to the end zone, but was stopped by Joey Bosa and Chris Harris Jr. just shy of the goal line.

In the fourth quarter, Melvin Gordon appeared to score on a 1-yard run, but the play was nullified by an illegal formation. The Broncos then brought out McManus for a 23-yard field goal.

CAREER-BEST KICK

McManus hit a career-long 61-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. McManus had missed all six of his previous attempts from at least 60 yards.

ANOTHER CENTURY MARK FOR EKELER

Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler had 112 scrimmage yards (58 rushing, 54 receiving) and had a 3-yard touchdown on the opening possession.

INJURIES

Broncos: Left guard Dalton Risner suffered an elbow injury on the opening drive and did not return.

Chargers: Center Corey Linsley came out in the first quarter due to a back injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

Broncos: host the Kansas City Chiefs next weekend in the regular-season finale.

Chargers: travel to the Las Vegas Raiders next weekend.