Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; ********** during the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Another week, another ugly game.
Another week, another beautiful win.
Through parts of Sunday’s game, the Denver Broncos looked how Peyton Manning must have felt – nasty. It looked like every member of the Broncos caught his virus. That explains the bizarre sequence at the end of the first half and the play calling on first-and-goal from inside the 5-yardline.
All members save for Connor Barth, that is. He must have gotten a shot prior to the game.
Who would have thunk it that Barth would play such a huge role for this Denver team? In his short time he’s matched the Broncos’ single-game record of field goals with five … twice. This time, Barth’s field goals carried Denver to a 22-10 win over the San Diego Chargers and its fourth-straight AFC West title. Barring a miracle, it ends the Chargers’ season.
I don’t care if it’s cliche or not: All that matters is wins. That’s now four in a row for the Broncos. This bears repeating: It’s the fourth-straight AFC West title. With one more win this season, Denver will get at least the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
For all intents and purposes, this game in San Diego was a road playoff game. The Chargers had to win this game. Unlike last season in a similar scenario, Denver shut the door.
Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) runs the ball as San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Kavell Conner (53) defends during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
For the Broncos to win on the road in the playoffs, this is the of type game they have to play. Make it physical. Make it ugly. Make it a brutal fight. (If you could could call this a road game with all the orange in the stands).
To hold an offense to 10 points in the NFL is a feat worth praise. Give the Broncos defense a game ball for how it played. The defense won the turnover battle, didn’t give up big plays and controlled the line of scrimmage. San Diego was held to 56 yards rushing on 20 carries.
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The Denver offense once again controlled the line of scrimmage even with left tackle Ryan Clady going out with a quad injury. The Broncos’ rushing attack finished with 39 carries for 111 yards, the offense won the time of possession battle and didn’t turn the ball over. When you do that, added with the play of the defense, you win in the NFL. You win Super Bowls with that method.
And Denver mixed in the passing attack. Even with the flu, Manning was 14-for-20 for 233 yards and one touchdown. Hopefully this puts to rest the talk of, “He’s finished. He’s struggling. He’s in a funk. What is wrong with Manning?” If that’s the case, Aaron Rodgers must be in a funk too now, right? The Green Bay Packers quarterback was held to under 200 yards passing, no touchdowns and two interceptions. My guess is the talk in Green Bay right now is not how big of a funk Rodgers is in. But I digress.
Manning averaged near 12 yards per completion – with the flu. Oh, and he threw a block.
As always, there are aspects that can and need to improve. One that comes to mind is the red zone. What would help is when you’re dominating the line of scrimmage with the run game, you don’t throw it twice from inside the 5-yardline. But rest assured, that will come. It also will help to have a 100 percent PFM. It was so bad Saturday night he didn’t think he would play.
For Denver to win in the playoffs and capture their third Lombardi Trophy, this is how it has to play.
If the wins continue, it will remain a beautiful sight.
Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) scores on a 28-yard pass play from quarterback Payton Manning in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Right is San Diego Chargers defensive back Jahleel Addae (37). The Broncos went on to a 22-10 win. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports