Crazy things happened in the NFL this past weekend. The Steelers lost to the Chiefs, Dallas beat the Redskins by just one point, and the Cleveland-Detroit game, although meaningless, was the most thrilling game of week 11. As far as the Broncos are concerned, I don’t know if some players got their swine flu vaccine mixed up with an early injection of tryptophan or if they just didn’t get the memo that the top spot in the AFC West was up for grabs.
It was Chris Simms that got the start and heard boos, while Kyle Orton got an ovation. After seven consecutive run plays by the Broncos which advanced them to the Chargers‘ 17, Simms dropped back to pass, and fumbled the ball. He got sacked two times, and led a 3 and out drive before Orton replaced him in the 1st half of the game. When Orton took the field, Invesco felt like Cape Canaveral during a rocket launch. Orton completed a 22 yard pass to Brandon Marshall, and then a 38 yard pass to Jabar Gaffney. It looked like that 13-0 score in the rafters was about to change. The team made it down to the Chargers 4 yard line and had 4 downs to get into the endzone. Then Knowshon Moreno fumbled the ball right before he crossed the goal line. Please, Know Mo fumbles. I know he’s a rookie, but that was a costly mistake that took away a lot of Mo-mentum right before halftime.
The Chargers never looked back after that. They took control of the clock (37:52 to 22:08), and made Denver’s defense look like they just ran a marathon. LaDanian Tomlinson (20 carries, 73 yds., 1 TD) pounded the ball inside just enough to get the Chargers lined up for 4 field goals. Philip Rivers (17-22, 145 yds., 1 TD) didn’t have an outstanding game as far as stats are concerned. In fact, he looked more like a winning Orton than his typical self. Nonetheless, he led his team to an easy victory, and didn’t even need Jay Cutler to motivate him to do so. Rivers had a clean jersey at the end of the game and completed nearly 91% of his 2nd down pass attempts. Talk about keeping the Broncos on their heels. The run game was effective and the pass game was flawless.
Swinging over to the other side of things, let’s talk about the Broncos inability to do anything right on offense. The Broncos went 2-9 on 3rd down and 0-3 on fourth down. Giving Chris Simms the start was a terrible call on Josh McDaniels’ part. Yes, he took all the snaps in practice last week, but he clearly didn’t prove anything against the Skins’, and he hasn’t started a game since 2006. Our 3rd option, Tom Brandstater, would’ve been a poor decision as well. If there was any indication that Orton could play, then he should have started. Afterall, a win against San Diego is more important than a win against the Giants on Thanksgiving. Thinking about starting Simms on Thursday would’ve been the more logical option given the circumstances. Orton could have rested during this short week and watched Simms against New York. Instead, the remaining games will most likely be “need to win” games because of this loss against the Chargers.
It might be a good thing that the Broncos have a short week to prepare. The Giants are coming off a hard fought overtime victory against the Falcons, and given that the Broncos have had plenty of time to prepare for these last four teams, a little pressure might do them some good. They thrive when they’re the underdogs, and I’m sure they’ve secured that title with four straight losses and the Giants coming to town.