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#DENvsLAC's Burning Questions: Can Drew Lock outduel Justin Herbert?

The last two meetings between the Broncos and Chargers were decided on the final play of the game, and Denver's last trip to Los Angeles wasn't settled until late in the fourth quarter, as well.

Could we see another dramatic finish as the Broncos head to SoFi Stadium for the first time? Head Coach Vic Fangio knows it won't be easy.

"They're a lot better than their record," Fangio said this week. "The stats show that, their games show that, they've just come out on the short end of a bunch of close games. They're playing very well offensively and defensively. Their quarterback is playing great. They got a lot of good skilled players on offense. They got good players on defense. They're a good team that it just hasn't gone their way in a lot of these games."

If the Broncos earn the win, they'll secure their second consecutive sweep over the Chargers and earn their fourth road winof the season. The Broncos have not gone 4-4 or better on the road since 2016.

As Drew Lock continues to state his case to be the long-term starter, these are the questions that will determine if the Broncos can earn their sixth win of the year.

CAN THE BRONCOS BE BETTER AGAINST THE PASS?

A week ago against the Bills, the Broncos allowed a season-high 359 passing yards as Josh Allen completed 28-of-40 passes for two touchdowns. Without Bryce Callahan, A.J. Bouye and Essang Bassey, the Broncos' secondary relied on Michael Ojemudia, De'Vante Bausby and Will Parks, and the new-look cornerback group struggled to contain Buffalo's top weapons. Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley combined for 19 catches for 259 yards, including four pass plays of at least 20 yards.

The Chargers' top receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will pose another problem for the Broncos' young cornerback crew. Allen, who is listed as questionable, has 100 receptions and eight touchdown catches on the season and is just eight yards away from another 1,000-yard season. 

One bright spot for the Broncos' secondary: Hunter Henry is expected to miss Sunday's game on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Chargers tight end has 60 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns this season.

CAN DREW LOCK OUTDUEL JUSTIN HERBERT?

The Chargers' rookie quarterback has been highly impressive in Year 1, and he's on the verge of breaking the rookie passing touchdown record. The Broncos will likely have to deal with Herbert for years to come, but in Week 8, Drew Lock arguably played the better game.

In a furious comeback, Lock completed 14-of-18 fourth-quarter passes for 155 yards, three touchdowns and a 142.1 passer rating. Herbert also threw three touchdowns in the matchup, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions to Lock's one interception.

Both quarterbacks have played well in recent weeks, as Herbert led the Chargers to their first division win since 2018 in Week 15, while Lock posted a career-best four touchdown passes in Week 14 against Carolina.

"He makes a lot of good plays, good throws, makes good plays with his feet, he's athletic, can avoid the pressure, can scramble and make plays," Fangio said of Lock this week. "We just need to see more of it. Keep improving in all the little things that Drew can improve on. Nobody's working harder than him to do that. He has the great want to and the great drive to be a great quarterback. We just hope to see constant improvement from him." 

Lock may face a bigger challenge this week, as the Chargers' secondary has gotten healthier with the return of former Bronco Chris Harris Jr. Herbert has also regained talented running back Austin Ekeler, while Lock will be without Phillip Lindsay. Lock, at the very least, won't have to worry about Joey Bosa, as the three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher has been ruled out.

The second-year quarterback said this week he doesn't care how the Broncos win, but Denver will likely need Lock to post a better performance than Herbert in order to earn a win.

CAN DENVER AGAIN KEEP THE CHARGERS OUT OF THE END ZONE?

In the Broncos' Week 8 win, their comeback wasn't derived from defensive dominance. The Chargers actually scored on a higher rate of offensive possessions in the second half than they did in the first, as they earned points on four of six possessions after the break. The key to the Broncos' comeback, though, was that they allowed just one second-half touchdown. After an opening-drive touchdown to begin the second half, the Chargers settled for three field goals in the later stages of the game. That kept the Broncos in the game, as they scored touchdowns on four of their six second-half possessions. LA's last field goal pushed the lead to 30-24, but KJ Hamler's touchdown catch with no time remaining gave Denver the win.

With the Broncos' defense missing its starting cornerbacks and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, it may not be realistic to expect Denver to shut down the Chargers' offense. If they can hold them to field goals, though, it should be enough to keep Denver's trip to SoFi Stadium a competitive game.

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