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'That's what we expect from him': Pat Surtain II, Broncos defense stand strong in win over Chargers

DENVER — In nearly every conceivable metric, the Chargers held the edge.

From the time the third quarter started until the second play of the final frame, the Los Angeles offense found success.

In 24 plays, they tallied 93 total yards, recorded eight first downs and chewed 14:15 off the clock.

And yet, those possessions were wins for the Broncos.

Despite racking up yards and straining the Broncos' defense, the Chargers were held scoreless on a pair of otherwise effective drives.

"It's a big energy boost," safety Justin Simmons said. "That's like the game within the game. Those are point swings."

The first drive ended after Dustin Hopkins' 52-yard field-goal attempt soared wide left, but the defense's second effort was perhaps more meaningful.

After the Chargers converted a fourth-and-4 from the Denver 34-yard line, they seemed poised to cut into the Broncos' 14-7 lead. Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, though, made a poor decision on a third-and-14 throw, as his end-zone pass went right to rookie Pat Surtain II.

"I think I need to just throw a better ball," Herbert said after the game.

Surtain delivered the ball to his father, former Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain, in the stands. It was a moment he'd planned for years, and it came after a play that helped the Broncos hold onto their lead.

"It was a special moment," Surtain said. "I always knew when the second pick [came], they were going to get that ball. I already had it in mind before, prior to the game. It was a special moment for both of us."

If that interception protected the Broncos' lead, his next pick sealed the game. With the Broncos leading 21-7 and the Chargers in Denver's half of the field, Surtain snagged a pass that went off Austin Ekeler's hands and took it 70 yards the other way.

With the play, Surtain joined Steve Atwater and Steve Foley as the only Broncos rookies to have multiple interceptions in a game since the 1970 merger. Surtain also became the first Broncos rookie to have a pick-six as part of a multi-interception game.

"Pat just did such a good job, man," Simmons said. "That's what we expect from him week in and week out. He's playing really good ball right now."

The poetry in that moment was evident, as well. In the same stadium where his dad recorded his final career pick-six, the younger Surtain posted his first. Surtain tossed the ball aside after the play, but nose tackle Mike Purcell grabbed the ball to ensure each Surtain would be able to keep a football.

"I told him after the game, 'I owe you a whole dinner or something,'" Surtain said. "The refs would've kept that ball. That would've been something."

The defense — tasked with slowing an offense that ranked sixth in passing and 11th in scoring entering Week 12 — held the Chargers' running backs to 36 yards on 13 carries, recorded three sacks and allowed just two plays of more than 20 yards. A week ago vs. Pittsburgh, the Chargers recorded four such plays.

The Broncos also forced a pair of three-and-outs to start the game that allowed the offense to build a lead, and the only touchdown the team gave up before the waning minutes of the fourth quarter came when the Chargers took over in Denver territory following a Drew Lock interception.

In all, the Chargers reached or moved inside the Broncos' 38-yard line on six occasions. During those drives, they totaled just 14 points — and also gave up a pick-six.

As Denver moves forward, Simmons expects that performance to be the standard.

"That's the type of defense we need to be playing for the rest of the season," Simmons said. "Not the roller coaster that's kind of been the first half of the year before the bye. I say it every time, I could come up here and talk about it, but all that matters is going out there and executing."

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