In this edition of "Rookie Diaries," third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III offers us a first-person look at his rookie season in Denver. During the inevitable ups and downs of his first year with the Broncos, Cushenberry will reflect on big moments, defining plays and his growth as a player and person.
In this installment, Cushenberry reflects on a 21-point comeback win against the Chargers and what the final drive was like on the field.
Even though we were down 21 points in the third quarter, I can believe that we came back.
Of course things weren't going our way in the first half and we were flat, but we never really panicked. From the outside, it was ugly. I'm just being honest; we weren't playing good. Honestly, it was frustrating, but what I try to do and what the O-line tries to do as a whole, we try to control what we can. Some things that happened in the first half, it was on us. You've got to focus on your job, focus on doing what you have to do to get things going well. Me personally, that's all I was trying to do: focus on my job. That's all I was trying to do. You can't try to do too much and try to make things happen. You've got to keep chopping and things are going to come together.
In that locker room at halftime, we weren't panicking. Drew [Lock] spoke to the team, and he basically just said what we all were thinking. It was ugly. We weren't playing good. We were playing horrible. Everybody just had to come out in the second half and make plays. Do your job, and make plays and things are going to work out. That's what happened at halftime, we were just being honest with each other and saying we've got to step up, or it's going to get bad. We came out in the second half and stepped up.
The game is never over. You've got to keep playing, no matter what. Even last week against Kansas City when it was ugly, don't stop playing. Don't quit at all. I don't care what the score is, until you see those triple zeros, it ain't over. That's what we did yesterday. That's what I'm always going to do throughout my career. I'm always going to play hard no matter what the score is, no matter how the game's going. Just keep playing.
When Phil [Lindsay] scored his touchdown, that was probably the moment I knew we could win. You could kind of feel that momentum shift, and that was kind of the spark that we needed. As soon as I saw him break that run and I saw no flags, I knew something special could happen. We just tried to hang onto that momentum and keep it going.
Then, before the last drive, the defense got us the stop we needed. As soon as we held them to three points, I told a few guys on the sideline, 'That's all we needed. We're going to go down and win the game.' My mindset in those moments is that there's no pressure. We run our two-minute offense so much. Throughout the week, we do all these two-minute walkthroughs and sometimes we complain that it's too long, but that's why we do it. When we get in those moments in the game, it's nothing. There's no pressure. It's just football. Go out there and do your job, and things are going to work out. … We just went out and executed and did our jobs.
In the huddle, everybody was just saying, 'Let's go win the game.' There was no big-time speech or anything. Just win. That's it. That's all we had to do. We were just communicating with each other. It was nothing too special or special speech or anything. Everybody had their mindset of let's go win. It's what we do. That's why we're here. Like KJ [Hamler] said after the game, this is where legends are made. So let's go do it."
On the fourth-down throw to Albert O. [Okwuegbunam], when I saw him in the air, I thought he caught it and then the ball came out late. And then I saw the flag come out and I was like, 'That's what we needed.'
Once I saw the flag and knew we were going to be at the 1-yard line, my mind instantly went to the Tennessee game when we didn't convert on the goal line. It went to the New England game when we couldn't convert down there. I told the guys, 'This is where we make up for it. We've got to get this right now. We're right here. We made it all the way this far, we might as well finish it.' That was definitely redemption to score down there.
On the touchdown, I could see the whole play, because the way we were protecting, we were sliding that way anyway. Once my guy kind of freed up when the play was all the way to the right, I thought Drew was going to run it in, and then I saw the defender coming to him and KJ slipped out. I was like, 'That's a touchdown. You've got to give it to him.' The referees were talking and I was waiting for that signal, and after that we've got everybody running on the field. I'm trying to tell people to get off the field, we've still got to kick the extra point. That was a crazy moment. It seemed like everybody was on the field at that point.
For Coach [Vic] Fangio to give us all a game ball, that was special. Like he said after the game, it's a team thing. It's a game ball for the entire team, and everybody throughout the week put in work. It's a special moment for all of us to enjoy. It just goes to show that when you work hard throughout the week and execute in practice and focus on the little things in practice, good things will happen. That's what I think about all the time. If I just do the right things, practice hard, show up early, write notes in the meetings, I like to think that the football gods will bless us. And they definitely did Sunday.
I'm sure it was killing Coach [Mike] Munchak not to be there, and he was probably watching on his couch yelling at his TV. We definitely wanted to get a win for him, and we can't wait for him to get back and tell us about all the things we did wrong. We definitely wanted to get it for him.
Now, we've got to watch the film, learn some things that we did in the first half that we've got to fix and move onto Atlanta. They're a good team, they've got some good guys on defense, so it's a big test for us, big game on the road and it'll be huge for us to get to .500 and be in a good position moving forward.
It feels great just to get a win, though. It's a good division win, and it's a historic comeback. It's great to be a part of it. We're going to try to keep building on it.