When a third-and-3 pass glanced off his hands and the Broncos lost a "Sunday Night Football" game to the Chiefs that they led late in the third quarter, KJ Hamler took it hard.
The rookie made a pair of plays in the Broncos' Week 13 matchup in Kansas City, but he clung to a play with just over six minutes remaining that helped the Chiefs regain possession. In the wake of the loss, Hamler felt personally responsible for Denver's 11th consecutive defeat to their rival.
"K.C. kind of ate me up for a little bit," Hamler said Sunday. "I dropped that ball in the middle, and I took it very hard. A lot of my teammates knew I felt like that game was on me. I worked extra hard in practice just doing the right things, asking more questions, getting extra catches after practice and before practice. Just trying to do the little things right because I didn't want to drop that ball again."
Drew Lock, though, didn't hesitate to go back to the talented second-round pick in the Broncos' 32-27 win over the Panthers.
"The fact that Drew had faith in me and everybody else had faith in me was a blessing," Hamler said. "I appreciate everybody. As a team, we collectively did a great job today. Truly blessed and can't thank the man up above enough for all of this. We came out with a win, that's the most important thing."
He found Hamler first for a 37-yard touchdown pass that put the Broncos up 19-7 as Hamler's defender fell down. With the Broncos looking to ice the game in the fourth quarter, Lock again looked Hamler's way. On first-and-10 from the Carolina 49-yard line, Lock fired one more than 40 yards downfield to Hamler, who flew down the field in the slot.
"I loved it," Lock said of the second play call. "It was an awesome call. They're expecting run. They were showing kind of a [cover-]zero look right from the snap, and in my head I'm thinking, 'All right, which one-on-one am I going to take?' Then they kind of popped out of it late, so again, like I said, I'm reading [WR] Jerry [Jeudy], and if the safety cuts to him, I'm throwing over the top. It was a perfect look for us right there. Great call by Coach [Pat] Shurmur and great execution by the guys up front blocking that. They obviously brought pressure. Great job by KJ to finish it."
When Denver practiced the play this week, the ball never went Hamler's way. So when he saw the ball arcing toward him in the air, he didn't quite believe it.
"We haven't thrown that in practice all week," Hamler said. "I was just always staying prepared. You've always got to be prepared. I beat the guy, stuck my head down same as I did on the last one, and ran full speed to the upright. Next thing I know, it was in the air. I didn't believe it was in the air because we haven't thrown it in practice all week, so I was like, 'Oh my God, I've got to make a play.' Drew put [up] a great ball and I just had to go get it."
Lock's passes to Hamler were two of this three longest touchdown passes in his young career.
Hamler now has three touchdowns on the season to go with 29 catches and 377 yards. Head Coach Vic Fangio believes the young player will only continue to improve.
"That's why we drafted him," Fangio said of his speed. "He's fast, he can stretch [a defense], he's tough to cover one on one, and we're hoping it's just the start. He's been coming around, but we're hoping to see more and more of that."
The only question mark surrounding Hamler's performance was whether his mom was awake to see it. She told DenverBroncos.com earlier this year that she had fallen alseep ahead of his game-winning score agianst the Chargers.
"I'm pretty sure she was awake," Hamler said laughing. "I'm going to call her when I get showered up and ready to go to the plane. She better have been awake. It's going to be a problem if she wasn't awake. I love my mom."