Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) reacts to a play in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Broncos vs. Chargers, Week 8 (Thursday Night Football)
There has been so much talk about last year’s Broncos vs. Chargers matchup on Thursday night football in Denver, you’d almost forget the Broncos actually beat the Chargers in Denver in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs last season in Denver.
Isn’t it funny how that works?
The national media seems to be focusing on the one time the Chargers have beaten the Broncos out of five tries in the Peyton Manning era, which is to be expected because there’s a target on the Broncos’ back every single week. We can come to expect that, it’s just odd what’s chosen to be remembered and what isn’t…wouldn’t you agree?
Anyway, I think this year’s matchup provides viewers and fans alike with a completely different experience of Broncos and Chargers football that we have come to expect. Compared to last year, the Broncos’ health is astronomically better. In the playoff game, they were so decimated by injuries that I’m pretty sure there was a guy named Marquice Cole on the roster.
The Chargers were white hot at the end of last season, and when they came to Denver, the Broncos really had nothing to play for and were banged up coming off of a win over the Tennessee Titans. The Broncos struggled in last year’s TNF matchup with the Chargers primarily for a few reasons.
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First and foremost, they couldn’t get off the field on third down defensively. The Chargers controlled the clock and that was a huge reason why. Second, the Broncos couldn’t convert third downs themselves. Despite scoring on their first possession of the game, Denver was in a shambles most of the game offensively, including allowing Peyton Manning to be hit seemingly over and over again. The Broncos simply could not overcome an overall lack of ball possession and the fact that the Chargers were able to pressure Manning consistently. Even with a chance to drive down the field in the later stages of the game, Manning was hit from his blind side and turned the ball over.
The re-insertion of Ryan Clady into the lineup hasn’t produced All-Pro results to this point, but Clady is certainly an upgrade at the left tackle position, and gives the Broncos more of a defense on offense to the Chargers’ pass rush, which has been effective this season. San Diego has at least one sack from a dozen players this season, and a 13th who has combined for a sack.
That’s an impressive number of players that they are scheming to get after the quarterback, so the Broncos will have to be ready for pressure, but so will the Chargers, which brings me to my next and perhaps most important point. Unlike last season, the Broncos have an elite pass rush right now. In fact, they have the top two pass rushers in the league in terms of sacks, and Von Miller is playing at as high a level as I have ever seen him play. DeMarcus Ware isn’t half-bad either…
The Broncos’ pass rush in 2014 is far more similar to the 2012 version when Von Miller was insanely good and Elvis Dumervil contributed a dozen or more sacks per year it seemed. The Broncos now have that again, and even better now is they have guys to clog running lanes up the middle of the field to open opportunities for the pass rushers to pin their ears back every possession. When the Broncos dropped a home game in last year’s regular season to the Chargers, Philip Rivers and the boys would just not die on third down. They had so much success, and the mistakes of the Broncos along with their ineptitude to get the ball back to the offense cost them the game.
This time is different. The game has an entirely different feel, and the Broncos are going to be a really tough team for the Chargers to come in and beat this time around on Thursday Night Football.