DENVER — It was just one loss, and now the Broncos are looking for just one win.
After a tough defeat to the Chiefs in Week 7, the Broncos can win their third game in their last four opportunities with a victory over the division-rival Chargers.
The Broncos swept the Chargers in 2019, and if they can extend their winning streak to three games, it would be the team's longest winning streak over a divisional rival since they beat the Chargers five consecutive times from 2013-15.
Drew Lock and Justin Herbert will draw the headlines in this matchup, but there's plenty else at play in a contest in which the Broncos can move to 3-4 on season and remain in the wild-card hunt.
These are the questions that will determine the winner of Sunday's matchup:
CAN DENVER AVOID THE BIG MISTAKE?
Against Kansas City, the Broncos trailed just 10-6 in the second quarter and had a first-and-10 on their own 49-yard line with a chance to take the lead. Instead, the game spiraled out of control. Drew Lock threw a pick-six when Daniel Sorensen read an out route to Noah Fant that Lock missed on the inside.
Then, after a Brandon McManus field goal, Kansas City's Byron Pringle returned a kick 102 yards for a touchdown that put the Chiefs up 24-9. Later, in the second half, a chance to cut the game to a one-possession lead was foiled when a flea-flicker went awry.
Any chance the Broncos had of winning the game against Kansas City slipped away with those turnovers, and they'll need to avoid a similar fate against the Chargers.
If they can play a clean game, it would stem a season-long issue. The Broncos have had multiple turnovers in five of their six games this season, and they've lost the turnover battle in every game except their Week 6 win in New England.
For Denver to earn a victory over Los Angeles, the formula may be as simple as being ahead in the turnover margin.
They won't have an easy task, though. Justin Herbert has thrown just three interceptions this season, including just one over the last three weeks.
HOW WILL DREW LOCK RESPOND?
Lock admittedly struggled against the Chiefs, as he completed 24-of-40 passes for 254 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 57.7 quarterback rating. He has now thrown two interceptions in each of his last two games since returning from injury, and he said after the game that there were times when he should've hit an open receiver underneath rather than taking lower-percentage throws down the field.
Lock's ability to rebound against Los Angeles will likely rely on his ability to understand when to make aggressive throws and when to simply move the sticks. He'll also need to continue to progress through his reads, as he said after Sunday's loss that he needs to do a better job of trusting his offensive line and staying in the pocket.
"He's still a very young quarterback, and he will be through this full season," Offense Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Thursday. "He's only played in [eight complete] games. People forget that. All those things are things that you work on through the length of a long career. It's certainly what we do with him. You want to be aggressive, and you want to take advantage of what the defense presents down the field. It's also important that you get completions."
Lock hasn't shied away from the pressure of needing to respond, and he'll get to do so against a team that he beat in his first career start.
CAN THE BRONCOS FLUSTER JUSTIN HERBERT?
The sixth-overall pick in April's NFL Draft has been somewhat of a revelation for the Chargers after he supplanted Tyrod Taylor in the starting lineup.
Herbert threw for 10 touchdowns and just one interception in October as he found his stride and earned Rookie of the Month honors. He impressed Head Coach Vic Fangio, as well.
"Ultimately, this guy is just very talented," Fangio said Thursday. "It looks to me like he's made up of the right stuff to be a quarterback in the NFL. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for us, I think they found their quarterback for the next 10 to 15 years."
The Broncos will have to be stout in their secondary, as Herbert hasn't been afraid to take shots deep down the field. A.J. Bouye returned to the field against the Chiefs, and the Broncos held Patrick Mahomes to just 200 yards and sacked him three times. If they can stifle Herbert in a similar fashion, that may be enough to limit a Chargers offense that has averaged 32.3 points over its last three games.