Chargers' Dustin Hopkins kicks OT field goal winner on injured hamstring

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Dustin Hopkins drilled the winning 39-yard field goal through the uprights then the Los Angeles Chargers kicker fell in apparent discomfort to the SoFi Stadium turf.

Teammates quickly lifted Hopkins to celebrate, and at least for a few minutes, he didn't appear in pain any longer.

It was a welcome reprieve after a trying effort in a 19-16 overtime victory against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.

"Before every kick, you knew that it was going to feel like somebody stabbed you with a knife," Hopkins said of the right hamstring injury he suffered in the first half. "I was just kind of committed to swinging and dealing with the pain after the kick."

After feeling a "pop and pain" during an extra point attempt early in the second quarter, Hopkins went on to convert 4 of 4 field goal attempts, including 37-, 31- and 35-yard kicks along with the 39-yard winner.

Following each kick, Hopkins would stumble and crouch to his knee because of the pain.

"I'm aware I was doing it, but it wasn't a conscious thing," Hopkins said. "It was just my body doing it."

"You can't say enough about him hanging in there," said coach Brandon Staley, whose Chargers improved to 4-2 and are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West.

Hopkins' status moving forward is unclear. He said he had an idea what the injury entailed but declined to elaborate.

The Chargers did not have a backup kicker active Monday night, and as the offense sputtered behind quarterback Justin Herbert attempting 57 passes but throwing no touchdowns, it became apparent that a kicker would be needed to win.

"We know that he is hurting," said Herbert, who passed for 238 yards with an interception. "For him to go out there and play and put up with some pain like that, it's great to see from him."

Hopkins felt strongly, despite punter JK Scott taking over kickoff duties, that he should continue to kick.

"I just felt that even hurt, I'd be the best option for the team going forward trying to make kicks," said Hopkins, who has converted 9 of 10 field goal attempts this season. "It was one of those things. The damage was not completely done, but you're like, 'Hey, it hurts already; even if I make it worse, we'll just figure it out on the back end.'"

The Chargers advanced into field goal range after the special teams unit forced a turnover.

With 4:58 remaining in overtime, Broncos returner Montrell Washington muffed a punt.

Washington had signaled for a fair catch, but a teammate attempted to block Chargers rookie Ja'Sir Taylor, who pushed him into Washington, causing the turnover.

Fellow Los Angeles rookie Deane Leonard recovered at the Broncos' 28-yard line.

"That was big," Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams said. "We were talking about getting a special teams turnover for the longest [time], and it changed the game."

The last time the special teams unit forced a turnover was in Week 17 of the 2021 season.

After Bolts running back Austin Ekeler lost 2 yards in consecutive carries, Herbert completed a 9-yard pass to Williams (whose only previous reception was for 8 yards in the first half) to put Hopkins comfortably into field goal range.

"It felt a lot longer when you're not feeling good," Hopkins said. "I didn't think about the distance or any external things ... and we'll deal with the pain later."