Denver Broncos 13
San Diego Chargers 21
This week’s Thursday night game at least finished tensely, but in truth the Chargers were consistently better than the Broncos over three quarters, although they still had a couple of worrying moments that could have cost them.
The Chargers offence had a tale of the opening drive and then the rest of the game. The opening drive was not without incident, with a big gain for Dexter McCluster wiped out by a pass interference penalty on rookie tight end Hunter Henry but he made several other plays in the same drive that ended with the only touchdown for the Chargers’ offence when Philip Rivers stood in and delivered the ball to the rookie tight end. In fact Henry led the team in receiving yards in this game as Philip Rivers threw for a modest one hundred and seventy-eight yards although he didn’t turn the ball over. The Chargers did manage to gain just under a hundred yards on twenty-nine carries with Melvin Gordon running for ninety-four yards, but in truth they struggled to maintain drives for most of the game and kicked a series of field goals to keep eking out their lead, but they managed to win the time of possession battle and put up enough points to win.
After the opening drive, the Broncos were able to clamp down on defence, and whilst their pass rush was not particularly effect at getting to Rivers, although Von Miller got his customary sack, they were able to limit the Chargers for most of the game. However, the Broncos were behind the game flow for all of the game and the real problems were not on this side of the ball.
The Broncos offence wasn’t terrible, but they struggled to maintain drives all game against a Chargers team who seemed to have an effective game plan. They weren’t helped by a series of offensive line penalties of various holding calls and false starts which killed several drives. In fact they had a touchdown by CJ Anderson in the fourth quarter wiped out by a holding call against tackle Russell Okung after the running back had taken a dump off pass and turned it into a twenty yard touchdown play. Not only did a holding penalty cost the Broncos a touchdown, but another one in the end zone gave the Chargers a safety. When you give up eighty-three more yards in penalties than the opposition, and you have them at critical points in the game, then you are going to struggle and with the passing game not really taking off the Broncos fell well short of what they needed to win. It appears that Trevor Siemian is a good quarterback if you can keep the game flow on your side, but the big chunks of yards needed if you fall back to a first and twenty after a holding a penalty is going to really cause him to struggle. In fairness, without head coach Gary Kubiak who usually calls the plays it is perhaps not surprising that the offence struggled this week. When you run for eighty-four yards but only call sixteen run plays to fifty passing plays, you can see that the balance was off for what is usually a balanced attack and it was only late in the game that the Broncos were far enough behind that they had to throw.
That said, the Chargers defence did well enough against the Broncos, and held up in the fourth quarter to win the game with Rivers looking on nervously from the side-lines, whilst the defence withstood a late surge by the Broncos. They actually matched the Broncos defence for sacks and got two more quarterback hits whilst swatting away more passes. Rookie defensive end Joey Bosa got a couple of quarterback hits as he begins to settle in having missed all of training camp, but I am really not sure how much the Chargers limited the Broncos and how much the Broncos caused the problems to themselves. In fairness, the solitary field goal the Chargers gave up in the first half was only due to a special teams mess up on a punt return, which gave the Broncos the ball deep in the Charger’s half of the field, but we will have to see how they develop in coming games.
This game was not the best spectacle, although it was tense late, but a very lopsided set of penalties probably sealed the game for the Chargers. The Chargers cut down on the mistakes, and you could see the relief when they got the win, but I don’t know how far they will go this season.
The Broncos have now lost two in a row, but they are at home for the next two games where they will hope to get their offence back on track and I suspect they will have the return match against the Chargers in week eight very much set in their sights.