The San Diego Chargers came to the Mile High City last night and while the final score said 27-20, the Bolts put a beating on a Broncos team that wasn’t prepared and didn’t bear any resemblance of an 11-2 team.
The Broncos Offense had a miniscule 18 yards rushing and went 2 for 9 on Third down. Meanwhile, their Defense allowed 178 yards on the ground and 6 for 12 on Third Down. The Offense couldn’t get much started and the Defense couldn’t get off the field, as seen by the Time of Possession (38:49 – 21:11). Those numbers are not conducive to winning football games.
The decision to bench Wesley Woodyard and Duke Ihenacho were the biggest Uh-Oh’s visible. At least to my eyes. The Omar Bolden Safety experiment isn’t working either. Injuries can account for some of the hardship too. Derek Wolfe’s loss has been hard to absorb. Too much has been laid on the Secondary having to do their job with no pressure on the opposing Quarterback. Yes, Philip Rivers is a crybaby, but he is one of the better QB’s in the league and is certainly capable of shredding a Defense when given the kind of time he had in this contest.
The Chargers have the 4th ranked Offense and they proved it against a Broncos middling Defense that didn’t play as a Unit. Whether it was the coaching decision to play backups, the numerous Missed Tackles or mental mistakes like jumping offsides on a Punt, Denver was ill prepared to face a hungry Division rival that was in a Must-win scenario.
The balance of any NFL game will usually hang on making plays at critical moments. A good example of this last night was Shaun Phillips 10th Sack of the year on 3rd down. That stalled the Chargers drive at midfield and forced them to punt instead of attempting a Field Goal. Unfortunately, Chargers punter Mike Scifres pinned the Broncos at their own 11 yard line.
Another play that maimed Denver was when San Diego was pinned at the 7 yard line and forced to punt from their own End Zone on 4th and 4. Nate Irving was flagged for a Neutral Zone infraction and the Chargers were handed a free 1st down with 8 minutes remaining in the 3rd Quarter. That mental error allowed San Diego to chew up 7 more minutes of the clock and keep the Broncos Offense on the bench.
Corey Liuget made a timely play after the Broncos had cut San Diego’s lead in half. Down by 7 at the Denver 33, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass and was looking for Julius Thomas when Liuget bull-rushed his way a Chris Clark-Zane Beadles double team and tipped the ball, allowing Linebacker Thomas Keiser’s Interception with 5 minutes left in the game. The Chargers ran Ryan Mathews five straight times, gaining a 1st down before stalling at the 17. Nick Novak converted a Field Goal to make it a two-score advantage with 2:41 left and the Broncos were unable to recover.
Still, all is not lost. The Broncos remain in 1st place in the AFC West with an 11-3 record. They are still headed for the postseason tournament, it just appears that they will need to do things the hard way and earn each advancement. Which could be good for this team. Denver will need to be hungry and not allowed to coast their way through the playoffs.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat this loss, but there were some good things that happened in this contest as well. Just not enough. Andre Caldwell did better than expected with 2 TD catches, which I’m sure San Diego was happy to see, since Bubba wasn’t going to single-handedly defeat the Chargers. If I’m (Chargers Defensive Coordinator) John Pagano, I’ll take that any day against a Manning-led team.
Montee Ball caught all 5 passes he was targeted on. Sylvester Williams notched his first career Sack along with 5 Tackles, while playing in more snaps (45) than he’s had all season. Sly graded out well overall, but the Broncos Pass rush didn’t amount to much (2 Sacks, 2 QB Hits and 5 Hurries). Danny Trevathan was all over the place as well, but that may have been because Denver was in their Nickel package and San Diego was able to run on them effectively. Again, Paris Lenon is no Wesley Woodyard, but the Broncos were undermanned in the middle. That’s not an excuse, it’s reality.
When our “Broncos Loss Hangover” has run it’s course, we can turn our faces towards the Houston Texans, a team in disarray that is in the running for the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The bad news is, we have ten days to wait for the sour taste to dissolve.
Hang in there Broncos Country.
– Kaptain Kirk