The Denver Broncos can’t quite ride off into the sunset yet, but the horse is packed up and pointed in the right direction of post season play. With a 30-23 win over the San Diego Chargers, the 7-3 Broncos essentially have a four game lead in the AFC West, including the tiebreaker. For the first time since 2005, the Broncos have swept the Chargers during the regular season.
The Broncos continue to contribute in all three phases, with the defense leading the charge. Von Miller boosted himself up in the race for defensive player of the year with his 6 tackles (two for a loss), 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Miller is the NFL’s leader in both sacks (13) and tackles for a loss (23). He is one of just two players in NFL history 23 years old or younger to have 13 tackles through ten games, with the other being the late Derrick Thomas.
Along with Miller, Wesley Woodyard had another big day with 8 tackles and an interception run back to the 8-yard line which resulted in a field goal for the Broncos in the first quarter. Woodyard has consistently put up big numbers and continues to show why the Broncos should keep him in the starting lineup even though D.J. Williams is back.
The Chargers went 0-for-10 on third down up until the end of the third quarter. They finished the game 3-for-16 on third down conversions and forced Philip Rivers to go 24-for-40 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. In fact, the 9 points that the Chargers had up until mid-way through the third quarter were a result of the defense (a pick-6 and a safety). The Broncos’ defense also held the Chargers to 53 yards on the ground.
Some quarterbacks get frazzled after throwing a pick-6 in the first quarter. Peyton Manning, on the other hand, gets angry and dangerous. After having a ball deflected into the waiting arms of Eric Weddle, the safety ran it in for a score to make it a 7-0 ball game. After that, Manning went 25-for-42 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. After his third touchdown, a 20-yard strike to Eric Decker, Manning secured his 6th game of the season with at least three touchdown passes. That sets a Broncos’ single-season record, and marks the 70th three touchdown game of his career. Only Brett Favre has more (72).
Give credit to the Broncos’ rushing game. Willis McGahee went down in the first half with a knee injury, but Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball carried the load. The Broncos had 133 yards on the ground with McGahee running for 55 yards on 7 carries.
Special teams came into play when Nate Irving blocked a Mike Scifres punt with less than two minutes to go in the first half. One play later, Manning hit Brandon Stokley for a 31-yard score and the team’s second touchdown of the game. The blocked punt was a huge momentum shifter, and put the Broncos up 17-7 at the half. It was the Broncos’ first blocked punt that led to a touchdown since Tony Scheffler did it in ’07.
If Sunday’s are a day of faith, then let’s keep with that theme. How about the faith of John Elway in hiring John Fox to lead this team? What about the faith that the Broncos had in investing a large sum of money into Peyton Manning after four neck surgeries and a year off from football? How about the faith in letting Tim Tebow, the devoted one and perhaps the one with the most faith in his team, pack up his locker?
As much as faith has made us question, maybe even kept us up at night, it’s also been one fine pillow for this Broncos’ season.