Broncos rookie Damarri Mathis flagged 4 times for pass interference amid historic Denver penalty total

Damarri Mathis got off to a rough start on Monday night. Things got worse from there on a historically bad night of penalties for the Denver Broncos.

The rookie Broncos cornerback filled in for injured starter Ronald Darby and was flagged for pass interference on the first play from scrimmage against the Chargers, setting up Los Angeles with a 30-yard gain into Denver territory. When his night was done, he'd been flagged four times for pass interference in one of the most heavily penalized games in Broncos history as the Chargers secured a 19-16 overtime win.

Mathis' first penalty was on a deep pass from Justin Herbert to Josh Palmer. It ultimately didn't cost the Broncos anything but field position as the Chargers' drive stalled out and ended with a punt. His next three kept alive Chargers' scoring drives.

INGLEWOOD , CA - OCTOBER 17: Damarri Mathis (27) of the Denver Broncos hangs his head after being penalized during the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Chargers 19-16 overtime win at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on Monday, October 17, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Damarri Mathis had a rough day at the office. (AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

His second interference penalty arrived like the first — on a deep pass from Herbert to Palmer late in the second quarter. This one went for 36 yards and led to a Chargers conversion on third-and-13. Three plays later, Mathis got flagged again, this time on a third-and-2 pass from Herbert to DeAndre Carter. This one went for 11 yards and comfortably set the Chargers up in field-goal range. Dustin Hopkins ended the drive with a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10.

It wasn't all bad for Mathis. With the game tied at 13-13, he broke up a Herbert pass on fourth down that led to a Chargers turnover on downs.

But there was one more penalty to come. With 5:04 remaining in regulation, the Chargers faced third-and-8 from the Denver 25. Herbert faced immediate pressure from the pass rush, rolled to his right and looked again to Palmer near the first-down marker. As Palmer dove for the ball, Mathis made early contact and drew the flag for another Chargers first down via penalty.

The drive ended with a 35-yard Hopkins field goal.

It's unfair to pin the loss on Mathis. An inept Broncos offense helmed by Russell Wilson and coached by Nathaniel Hackett failed to break the 20-point barrier for the fifth time in six games and can squarely take the bulk of the blame. Meanwhile, Mathis wasn't the only Broncos player racking up penalty yards.

For the night, the Broncos tallied 151 total penalty yards, their second-highest single-game total in team history and the most since 1976.

The total exceeds Denver's rushing yards (98) against the Chargers and comes close to its passing total (160 yards). Denver's 24 defensive penalties through six games are the most in the NFL.

"I'm gonna have to go back and look at those and see where they came from, how they happened and how we can hopefully prevent more of those," Hackett said of the penalties after the game. "We've been harping on those quite a bit. ... We've gotta play cleaner football across the board."

Alas, pass interference penalties add up quick. Mathis accounted for 87 penalty yards, the fifth-most by an NFL player in a single game since 2000.

“I have to have better technique," Mathis told reporters after the game.

There will certainly be better days ahead for the fourth-round rookie out of Pitt, who will continue to see opportunities. Darby is out for the season with a torn ACL.

He also has company. Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown racked up four pass interference penalties last season in a Thanksgiving loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. He remains a fixture in the Cowboys' secondary.

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