From The Armchair: Denver Broncos, Week 15
The Super Chargers picked right back up and took the opening 2nd half drive 80 yards for a touchdown, with Ryan Mathews taking it 23 yards to the house. San Diego held the ball for just under 12 minutes of the 3rd quarter, keeping Manning and Co. off the field, but the offense was finally able to do something in the 4th. Manning hit Andre Caldwell for a 5 yard wide receiver screen to cut the Charger lead to 7. The Broncos were able to hold and get the ball back with 5:40 remaining in the game, but after 17 yard pass play on first down, Manning had his next pass deflected and intercepted, effectively ending the comeback attempt. Both teams traded field goals late and the Chargers handed the Broncos their first division loss in the Peyton Manning era and first loss at home since week 3 of last year.
The offense was basically ineffective for most of the game. The Chargers held the Broncos to season lows in points and yards (295). Even though Wes Welker was held out of this game, there were still plenty of weapons available to Manning, but the Chargers had a good game plan. If there’s one stat to tell how the middle of this game was the game changer it’s this. After the Broncos took a 10-3 lead after their second drive, their next four drives consisted of a combined 13 plays for 13 yards, three 3-and-outs, 2:52 seconds of possession.
The Broncos were never able to set up, let alone sustain a running attack. They ran the ball just 11 times for 18 yards. That played a major part in the Broncos losing traction through the middle of this game. Even though Manning didn’t have an awful day stat wise (27/41, 299 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT), this game was a good indication of just how important the running game has been to this offense all year.
On the bright side, Andre Caldwell, filling in for Wes Welker has 6 catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Other than that, nobody really stood out, they really didn’t have the time to.
When your offense is out there week in and week out setting records, nobody is going to break out the microscope on your average defense. When you get completely dominated in primetime, that’s going to change. The Chargers didn’t do anything fancy, Philip Rivers only threw the ball 20 times for 166 yards, but they didn’t have to. The offensive line methodically dominated the Broncos front 7. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead made plays and picked up big first downs when they had to. The Chargers were 6-12 on 3rd down which helped them possess the ball for just under 39 minutes, or 17 more than the Broncos offense.
The other thing the Broncos weren’t able to do was create a turnover. If there’s one big criticism of this defense it’s that they rarely make impact plays. Whether it be creating pressure and sacking the QB or creating turnovers, this group has increasingly allowed the opponents to stay in games as this year has gone on.
Now maybe with a little extra time between games and two awful opponents to finish the regular season, this side of the ball can get healthy and prepared for a playoff run. Right now, this group is the Broncos worst enemy.
How can you top last week when Matt Prater set an NFL record with his 64 yard field goal? Well noting this week came close. Prater was 2/2 on both field goals and extra points, but his longest was from 42. Trindon Holliday averaged 27 yards on 4 kickoff returns. I’m still not impressed with Britton Colquitt this year. You’d think the guy would be jazzed when he got opportunities to punt. He just hasn’t been good enough when given the opportunity to change field position or pin teams deep.
Up next, the Broncos head to Houston to take on the Texans. This team could use a blowout win right now to get on track and Houston is a prime opponent to make that happen.