Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
It was another dominant victory for the Denver Broncos, this one just four days after their blowout Sunday Night Football win over the San Francisco 49ers.
After scoring 14 points in the second quarter, the Broncos put 21 more on the board in the second half and despite a surge, ended up outlasting the San Diego Chargers at home in a divisional game.
Another complete performance by the Broncos in the books, this one was highlighted by extremely strong play from Emmanuel Sanders and Ronnie Hillman, who helped carry the offense. Defensively, the Broncos picked off Philip Rivers twice, only sacking him twice, but were able to get the Chargers off the field consistently on third downs.
Here are five observations from the game on Thursday Night.
1. Ronnie Hillman Back At It
Running Back Ronnie Hillman had another 100 plus yard game on the ground and had two touchdowns taken away, one with his foot barely out of bounds and another on a holding call (O.Franklin). It’s been a really impressive road for Hillman, who has done a phenomenal job of taking a stranglehold on the Broncos’ running back spot.
He’s showing explosiveness, an ability to get tough yardage, and reliability as a receiver as well. Consider me extremely impressed by Hillman’s emergence. I think he’s here to stay.
2. Sanders’ Big Night
Emmanuel Sanders was an absolute beast Thursday night, and the Broncos let the beast eat.
He finished this game with nine catches for 120 yards and three — count ’em, three — touchdown grabs. It’s a far cry from the first five games of the season when Sanders didn’t have a single touchdown. He’s got four in the last two games including a hat trick on Thursday night, and he looks better every single week.
Sanders exploited the Chargers defense deep, in the intermediate, working the middle of the field, working the sidelines, on short crossing routes, and he even picked up a first down on a little end-around play. This guy was paid $15 million for three years of work. The Broncos have a true steal, and this guy is worth every penny.
Sanders did fumble on a play, but Wes Welker was on the scene for his biggest play of the night (sadly). It was the only blemish on an otherwise flawless performance by this young star.
3. Von Extends Streak
It’s hard to quantify just what Von Miller can do against a quarterback like Philip Rivers, but he was disruptive again vs. the Chargers, picking up yet another sack and now has a sack in six straight games, nine for the season.
Miller also creates problems in the form of QB hurries, hits, and just overall pressures. He makes Philip Rivers account for him on every play, and may have had a little something to do with Chris Harris’ interception of Rivers. The Chargers hadn’t turned the ball over but three times all year up until this game. That number increased to five after the Broncos got two picks.
Rivers is always going to get his, he’s a great quarterback, but the pass rush applied by Von Miller was again a game-changer.
4. Brandon Marshall Shutting Things Down
The Broncos got a Pro Bowl season or two out of Brandon Marshall before, maybe they’ll get another this year. So what if it’s a different guy at a different position?
Danny Trevathan’s replacement has, aside from a few blips in coverage, been terrific this season. Thursday night was perhaps the best he’s been all year, racking up 11 tackles and what Pro Football Focus labels as 10 “stops”. A stop is any play that constitutes an offensive failure, and Marshall had 10 of those by himself.
He was busting up quick passes to Branden Oliver, playing great in pursuit, and was generally all over the field. When Danny Trevathan went down with injury I wasn’t worried because his position has been a breeding ground for success in Jack Del Rio’s defense. I don’t know why, but with Wesley Woodyard, Trevathan, and now Marshall, there’s a pattern. It’s not by accident.
Marshall is the real deal, and the Broncos have to be excited about his 11 tackle, 10 stops, two TFL, one pass defensed performance on TNF.
5. Scoreboard Operator Gets Called Out…
…By Peyton Manning.
“I got a problem with our scoreboard operator, I’ve got to have a little talk with him,” Manning said. “I’m not sure what he’s doing, he’s playing music and showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up and we have the ball. I don’t think we should be doing that.” Manning also took aim at a moment in the second half when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was shown on the giant video board as the crowd booed and then Manning would be shown to cheers. “And I don’t think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline,” Manning said. “I thought that was kind of disrespectful … our scoreboard operator, it wasn’t his best night.”
Well then. I guess the Broncos are in the market for a new scoreboard operator then. All kidding aside, Manning has valid points. Every team wants it quiet when they are on offense. Apparently the scoreboard operator forgot that the Broncos were trying to close the game out and decided it was time to party.
It cost them five yards and a Peyton Manning five-spot into the swear jar.