Cameron Dicker gives Chargers kick they need in comeback win over Falcons

Cameron Dicker gives Chargers kick they need in comeback win over Falcons

Cameron Dicker (15) is hoisted by Chargers teammates after kicking a 37-yard field goal to defeat the Atlanta Falcons. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Before the game Sunday, he’s pretty sure very few players in his locker room knew his name.

Afterward, two of those total-stranger teammates were hoisting Cameron Dicker onto their shoulders in delirious triumph.

In what has to be one of the oddest, most spectacularly implausible moments in NFL history, Dicker kicked a game-winner for his second team in five weeks, lifting the Chargers past Atlanta 20-17.

“Very slim,” he said when asked of the chances of someone experiencing what he has recently. “I would not have thought I’d be here. Cool to have these opportunities to be able to go do my thing.”

On Oct. 9, Dicker was an injury replacement for Philadelphia when he booted a 23-yarder with 1:45 remaining to beat Arizona. That contest also ended as a road victory for Dicker’s team by the same 20-17 final.

Those are the only two games in which the rookie kicker out of the University of Texas has appeared.

Against the Falcons, Dicker was filling in for the injured Taylor Bertolet, who was filling in for the injured Dustin Hopkins.

When Bertolet hurt his quadriceps in practice last week, the Chargers summoned the NFL’s hired leg, bringing in their third kicker in as many games and, soon enough, placing all their hopes — and perhaps their season — on his right foot.

“We’re going to set the NFL record for game balls for kickers in a year,” coach Brandon Staley said. “Three separate kickers — game balls.”

Dicker officially joined the team Thursday as a member of the practice squad. He was elevated Saturday and then, in turn, lifted the Chargers 24 hours later.

His winning kick came from 37 yards on the game’s final play, Dicker also nailing a 31-yarder with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the Chargers even 17-17.

It was quite an afternoon for a 22-year-old who was thinking his biggest thrill of the week probably would be attending a Carrie Underwood concert in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.

The Chargers' Cameron Dicker (15) watches his 31-yard field goal against Atlanta sail between the uprights.

The Chargers’ Cameron Dicker (15) watches his 31-yard field goal against Atlanta sail between the uprights, It was his second game-winning kick of the season, the other coming as a temporary member of the Philadelphia Eagles. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

After being released by the Eagles last weekend, Dicker returned to Texas and was making plans to attend the show when his agent phoned and, Dicker recalled, asked him, “How fast can you get to the airport?”

A short time later, Dicker was landing in Southern California to write a second chapter to his unlikely tale.

“He represents what this season has been about for us,” Staley said. “It takes everybody on the team to win.”

It took everybody Sunday plus one stunning break in the final minute — a break that allowed Austin Ekeler to feel something other than overwhelming regret on the flight home.

The Chargers were in position for a game-winning Dicker attempt when they had third and four at the Falcons’ 22-yard line with 46 seconds left.

Wanting to put the ball near the left hash mark, the Chargers ran Ekeler in that direction over the tackle spot. As he was going down on a two-yard gain, Ekeler fumbled, with Atlanta defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham recovering.

The Chargers' Austin Ekeler (30) fumbles before Atlanta recovered and fumbled the ball back to Los Angeles.

The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler (30) fumbles before Atlanta recovered and fumbled the ball back to Los Angeles. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

The Falcons' Ta'Quon Graham (95) fumbles the football back to the Chargers after recovering an Austin Ekeler fumble.

The Falcons’ Ta’Quon Graham (95) fumbles the football back to the Chargers after recovering an Austin Ekeler fumble and being chased by Justin Herbert (10). (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

With the ball in his hands, Graham began running toward the opposite end zone before he also fumbled. Chargers’ left guard Matt Feiler recovered at the Atlanta 43-yard line.

“It’s amazing that we got that ball back,” Ekeler said. “I gotta finish games much better than that.”

The lost fumble was the first for the veteran running back since Dec. 5, 2021, when he had two in a victory at Cincinnati.

It also capped a day on which Ekeler scored two touchdowns — on a two-yard run and a one-yard catch— but also had a key drop on a screen pass and an apparent 37-yard scoring reception overturned by replay review.

The fumble, though, was what Ekeler said he’ll remember most.

“Right there, it’s like, ‘Hey, Austin, close it out,’ ” he said. “That’s the type of player I want to be. I have this weird, sick feeling. I’m so happy that we won. But … we could have easily lost that game if we don’t get that fumble right back.”

Given that second opportunity with 34 seconds remaining, the Chargers needed some yardage.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer (5) tries to allude Falcons safety Richie Grant (27) after catching a pass.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer (5) tries to allude Falcons safety Richie Grant (27) after catching a pass. Palmer surpassed 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

With one-on-one coverage, Joshua Palmer worked free from Falcons’ cornerback Cornell Armstrong and Justin Herbert hit him for a 22-yard gain.

“As soon as I beat him off the line,” Palmer said, “I knew Justin was going to come to me.”

A two-yard run by Ekeler set up Dicker’s memorable, final kick — not that he recalls seeing it pass through the uprights.

“I saw it going,” Dicker said. “I don’t remember it actually going through. I saw it going and it was, ‘Sweet!’ ”

Dicker turned and hugged holder JK Scott, before his teammates converged, with Derwin James Jr. and Amen Ogbongbemiga placing him on their shoulders.

Not that Dicker remembers that, either. Calling it “all a blur,” he said he had no idea who picked him up.

The delightful confusion was understandable. Dicker had been a Charger for barely 96 hours and arrived at Mercedes-Benz Stadium still an unknown among his own.

“Three or four, maybe,” Dicker said when asked how many of his teammates knew his name as of Sunday morning. “If there’s any Big 12 guys, I think they’d know. I guess the [other] specialists. That’s about it.”

A few hours later, all the Chargers knew Cameron Dicker.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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