Kudos to the San Diego Chargers. They were ready to go on a short week, traveling to Denver and playing one of the best teams in the NFL.
San Diego head coach Mike McCoy, the former offensive coordinator of the Broncos, guaranteed victory on Sunday, and his team delivered in a huge way.
The headline of this story is, “Broncos Finally Get Beat, Not Just Lose” for a huge reason. Despite having two losses to the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots before Thursday night’s game, the Broncos hadn’t really been beat this season. I know that is going to sound like a homer-ish statement, but the Broncos beat themselves against the Colts and Patriots, turning the ball over far too many times and making critical errors at the end of the game when everything was hanging in the balance.
Peyton Manning threw what essentially became a game-sealing interception in this game against the Chargers as well, but there was a different feel to this game completely.
The Chargers actually BEAT the Broncos, the Broncos didn’t just lose. San Diego not only controlled the time of possession, but they forced the Broncos to go three-and-out on three straight drives and capitalized, taking a 24-10 lead that wasn’t answered until the fourth quarter when Denver scored to make it 24-17.
It didn’t take a big game stat-wise from Philip Rivers, nor did it take the Broncos turning the ball over three or four times. What it took from the Chargers was a whopping 66 plays offensively compared to the Broncos’ 53.
The Chargers didn’t have to score 35 or more points, but what they did do was completely control the pace of the game. There’s nothing more frustrating for the Broncos or their fans to watch Peyton Manning standing on the sidelines while Philip Rivers and the Bolts chip away at the game clock.
Sure, you could argue the Broncos had some killer penalties that could have shifted the momentum of the game, which they definitely could, but even a couple of mental errors like that may not have saved this game for Denver.
San Diego was flat out better, and the Broncos have some corrections they need to make in a hurry, or else they’ll be a quick out in the playoffs yet again.
Here are some key stats for you:
The Broncos were 2/9 on third down conversions. The Chargers were 6-12. San Diego didn’t turn the ball over, while the Broncos had the one critical interception. The Chargers had the ball for 38:49, the Broncos had it for 21:11.
It was just a straight up win for the Chargers, and nothing more. I can’t say the Broncos should have won this game, because they probably shouldn’t have. They had a great chance to do something when they were driving in the fourth quarter before Manning threw that interception while getting hit, but I consider this game more of a job well done for the Chargers than a game where I’ve woken up upset wondering what the Broncos could have done or should have done differently.
Get off the field on third downs defensively? Don’t go three-and-out three straight times?
This game was a great wake up call for the Broncos, who needed this little extra bye week to get healthy before their final two regular season games and the playoffs. We’ll be rooting for the Raiders and Dolphins this weekend so as to not lose any ground in the AFC West or AFC playoff chase for home field.
Otherwise, it’s time for the Broncos to spend this down time getting healthy, and making some adjustments for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
They obviously need it.