Denver Broncos 39 - San Diego Chargers 38 - Making The Grade

One last look at the Chargers game before moving full throttle to Week 3's Home matchup with the Saints. We'll talk much more about that, but it is time for this week's edition of  "Making The Grade" where I will grade the Broncos performance from the day before.  The most important "grade" is the one on the scoreboard, and for the Broncos this week it was another W.  What about the players performance?  Let's take a look....

QUARTERBACK
 

B

 

Jay Cutler -- 36/50 - 350 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT

It was another monster performance for Cutler.  He was on target all day long, and to throw 50 passes and complete 72% of them is simply amazing.  I can't, however, give Cutler anything better than a B because of the Red Zone pick.  That play could have easily cost the Broncos the game, had things turned out differently.  These things are going to happen with a young quarterback, however, and it is his effort at making a play every time he takes a snap that enables him to make 25 good plays before he makes 1 bad one.  The hope is he learns from it and doesn't repeat it.  Cutler knows this, and I am confident that we won;t see many more plays like this going forward.  As an offense, the Broncos are still rolling, and through two games the team has scored points on 13/19(68%) possessions, with 10/13(77%)scoring possessions resulting in touchdowns.

RUNNING BACK
 

B

Selvin Young - 8 carries, 78 yards, 9.8 ypc

The final stats are right where the Broncos want to be - 24 carries / 145 yards / 6.0 ypc - but the running game still needs some fine tuning.  Take away a 49-yard run by Selvin Young, and the Broncos stat line looked like this - 23 carries / 96 yards / 4.1 ypc -- There were times in the game, specifically in the 3rd quarter, that the Broncos wanted to run to "shorten" the game but were unable to.  That lead to a couple 3rd and long plays that the Broncos were unable to convert, thus allowing the Chargers back into the game.  The running game will continue to take a back seat to a pass heavy offense, but the Broncos need to find a way to dial it up when they want to kill some clock.  Perhaps when Ryan Torain returns??

WIDE RECEIVER
 

A+

  Brandon Marshall - 18 rec. / 166 yards / 1 TD / 9.2 avg

For the second consecutive week I can't go any other direction than A+.  Every time a play needed to be made, Cutler and his corp of receivers was there to make it.  Marshall's performance, considering he didn't practice for the week during his suspension, was epic and catapults him to one of the elite receivers in this league.  I keep repeating it, but the fact that I am still in awe of what I saw while I was in Denver will keep it in the forefront of my mind all season.  There isn't a DB in the Nationla Football League that can cover him.  No One.

Marshall wasn't the only one, as Eddie Royal made to two biggest catches of the game, on virtually the same play.   His little "sugar" move to get open in the endzone was well beyond his years, and Royal's ability to hang on to 2 Cutler laser beams back-to-back is as awesome as it gets.

TIGHT END
 

A

Tony Scheffler - 6 rec. / 64 yards / 2 TD / 10.7 ypc

Obviously the tights ends had a solid game in the passing game.  Everyone associated with the Broncos' aerial attack firing on all cylinders.  Scheffler had a solid game, making up for the dropped TD pass last week.  Daniel Graham also had a couple receptions and Nate Sexy got involved as well.  Where the group cemented their 'A' was with solid blocking, especially by Graham.  The tight end play is becoming more and more consistent and it looks like Tony Scheffler is going to have a huge season.

OFFENSIVE LINE
 

A

Officially, the Chargers were credited with a sack, but for most of the afternoon the O-Line did a wonderful job against a solid pass rush, even without Shawne Merriman.  I focused much of my attention on Ryan Clady and form what I saw this kid is going to be a star.  Everything you have heard about his footwork is 100% accurate.  For his size, his moves better than anyone I have ever seen.  Ryan Harris was just as strong on the other side.  One small downer would be the run blocking.  In an interesting twist of irony, the Broncos have an O-Line group that pass blocks better than run-blocks, which makes sense when looking at the personnel on the outside.  Clady and Harris played in Pro Style, pass-happy offenses, which clearly explains their strength as pass blockers.  The run-blocking will come as they get more comfortable in the Broncos' system, but for now, the Broncos are going with what works.
DEFENSIVE LINE
 

D

This group has got to start to improve if the Broncos are going to success like those of you living in "La-La Land" say they will.  Having a high powered offense is almost as much of a curse as it is a blessing.  You can see how teams are going to try and attack the Broncos.  Teams know that the Broncos are focused on stopping the run so what do they do?  Spread the Broncos out and throw the ball all over the field.  That shows the other vulnerability of the D-Line, the inability to get consistent pressure from the front four.  This allows opposing quarterbacks to have all day to throw, and like I've said in the past, give any QB in the NFL 5 seconds to throw and he is going to beat you.  This group, in whatever rotation is on the field, needs to get to the quarterback.  Perhaps a Jarvis Moss sighting is in order??
LINEBACKER
 

C-

I may be a little lenient with the C-, but I thought Boss Bailey had a pretty steady game, all things considered.  D.J. was also solid, though he wasn't the impact player in this game I was hoping for.  Alot of that could have been what the Chargers were doing on offense, but D.J. is now getting paid ALOT OF MONEY to be an impact player on defense.  D.J. will be fine, however.  The guy I want to know about is Nate Webster, who disappeared for long stretches during the game.  Again, your MLB cannot make alot of plays when the offense is throwing the ball all over the field, but Webster just didn't seem to be visiable.  I have always liked Webster's energy adn what he brings to a defense in spurts.  The question is, can he do it week in, week out.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
 

C

Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage who get paid to play football as well.  as much as I dislike Phil Rivers, I have to admit he played a solid football game.  The few times the Broncos did bring some pressure, Rivers was able to move around in the pocket and deliver the ball accurately and timely.  On the deep pass to Chris Chambers, it is easy to say the Champ Bailey was toasted, but to be fair to Champ, the pass was dropped perfectly to Chambers in stride.  There is no defense to the perfectly thrown pass.  Like Brandon Marshall, Chris Chambers is a big receiver with freakish talent.  There is no shame when that guy makes some plays.  The Broncos did do a solid job in the Red Zone, and the tackling by the DB's was solid as well. 
SPECIAL TEAMS
 

D

A year ago the Broncos had a big lead, on the road, against a team they should beat.  What happened?  A kick return for a TD allowed their opponent to feel like they were still in the game.  The Broncos went on to lose that football game.  The same thing nearly happened yesterday when Darren Sproles returned a kickoff 103 yards for a score right after the Broncos took a 21-3 lead.  Who knows how the game turns out if the Broncos defense, which was playing pretty well at the time, were allowed to take the field with an 18 point lead.  As it was, the Broncos responded with a field goal of their own, but the game from that point never felt quite the same.

On the plus side, I thought Brett Kern was solid in the punting game, and Matt Prater did a good job kicking off.  To be fair to Prater, 80% of the return guys in the NFL kneel when the ball is kicked 4 yards deep.  Sproles is an exception and it ost the Broncos.  It was nice to see Prater drill his first long-range field goal, a 52 yarder that ended up pplaying a huge role in the game.

COACHING
 

A+

Two weeks in a row Mike Shanahan is on top of his game.  Of Course, having the talent around you to be able to utilize a game plan is a huge part  I said it before that I was 100% behind the decision to go for two, and the message that decision sends to a football team.  No one has a better feel for the pulse of the team than the Head Coach, and Shanahan is no different.  He knew what winning the game in the way the Broncos did could mean for the rest of the year.  The gamble was well worth the risk, and the payoff moving forward will be huge.
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