Many people said that this game was going to be the most important game of the year. After starting 1-3, the Broncos were set to face the Chargers at home before entering their bye week. It was time for Kyle Orton to put up or shut up. If the Broncos could not come out with a victory, it was time to start seriously considering putting in Tim Tebow. Well, after an embarrassing first half performance, John Fox didn't wait for the game to end. Kyle Orton was benched at half time and Tim Tebow was given a shot. He entered the game cold turkey trailing by a score of 23-10. After using the 3rd quarter to get back into the swing of things, the Broncos went down 26-10 and some wondered if Tebow time was already over. Then the 4th quarter started and everything changed. Tim Tebow rallied his troops, ignited the Broncos fan base and got the Broncos within a single score. It came down to a last second hail mary, but the pass was deflected, hit the ground and the Broncos were given their 4th defeat. If there is one thing that we can take from this game it is that Tebow Time has undoubtedly started and the fans are loving every minute of it. There is a lot to discuss so let's jump into the Studs and Duds.
Despite never taking practice reps with the starters, Tim Tebow was thrust into the starting role after half time against San Diego. He understandably was rusty in the 3rd quarter. He was short on a few throws and barely missed on a few big plays. He finished the 3rd quarter without completing a single pass and the Broncos were down 26-10. There was little hope entering the 4th quarter.
Then Tim Tebow struck.
Tim Tebow brought the Broncos storming back. Early in the 4th, Tim and Willis McGahee got the Broncos into the red zone using their legs and Tim scored his first touchdown of the 2011 season when he ran behind perfect blocking on a 12 yard QB run. Momentum immediately swung to the Broncos side. The offense used that momentum to score the 2 point conversion. The defense rode that momentum and Robert Ayers caused a sack/fumble on the next defensive series. Tim got the ball back in great field position. He ran the ball for 8 yards and that was followed by a McGahee 5 yard run. Then Tim dropped back, waited as long as possible and threw a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno who caught the ball and went 28 yards for a TD.
Sports Authority Field went crazy.
In the end, the game came down to a hail mary that was deflected and hit the ground to end the game. He finished the game throwing 4/10 for 79 yards and 1 TD. He also ran the ball 6 times for 38 yards and a TD.
For a guy who was deemed (both inside and outside the organization) not ready to be the starter, Tim Tebow made a lot of people look foolish yesterday. He ignited the team; he ignited the fan base and he was one pass away from pulling off an upset victory over the San Diego Chargers. He has clearly got a lot of developing to do, but Tim Tebow flashed his great potential for the 4th time in a Bronco uniform and has finally put the nail in the coffin to the most asked question since John Fox was hired. Tim Tebow was/is/will be the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
Simply put, Willis McGahee was a monster against the Chargers. The former Baltimore Raven ran the ball 16 times for 125 yards for a 7.8 yards per carry average. McGahee excels at everything Knowshon struggles at. He is patient, he reads his blocks, he doesn't go down easy and he is great in short yard situations. He didn't score a touchdown, but he did score on a two point conversion. At this point, it is easy to see that Fox views Willis McGahee as the primary running back in Denver. Knowshon Moreno didn't get a single carry against the Chargers. McGahee is really starting to get into his groove here in Denver. Through 5 games, McGahee has rushed the ball 85 times for 384 yards and a touchdown. He has rushed for over 100 yards in 3 of the first 5 games. If Denver is to rebound after the bye week, McGahee is going to need to continue to run like he has been.
Robert Ayers just played the best game of his NFL career. After having several solid performances, Ayers finally made the play that fans have been waiting for. Ayers was rushing the passer, saw Rivers stepping up in the pocket, spun towards him and stripped the ball in the 4th quarter against the Chargers. Ayers was credited with the sack and he finished the day officially with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Ayers is a guy who has yet to live up to the billing of a 1st round draft pick. He is as good of a run stuffer as I've seen on the Broncos, but his pass rush skills have left a lot to be desired. However, for one game, he played like a 1st rounder and deserves a lot of praise for his performance. Let's hope that he can take this performance and build upon it.
Marcus Thomas and Ryan McBean
Marcus Thomas first game of the 2011 season has to be considered a major success. Thomas finished the game with 8 tackles. That's right. The 6 ft 3, 315 pound DT finished the game with the 8 tackles, 3rd most tackles for the game. Thomas was not only good against the run, but he also provided a pass rush. It's only one game, but I was pleased with what I saw from Marcus Thomas. He was a physical presence and while the Chargers were able to run all over the Broncos, Thomas was a welcome addition.
Ryan McBean, just when I think I have you all figured out, you go and sack the most hated man to Denver fans. I don't know what got into him, but McBean played very well against the Chargers. He finished the day with 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL and most importantly, no face mask penalties. His sack was a thing of beauty. He stunted with the other DT and DE, came around the edge and had a clear path to Rivers. It was a great play that we haven't seen from McBean before. Give credit where credit is due, McBean played well against the Chargers.
Red Zone Defense
The Chargers had no problem moving the ball down the field. That is evident by their 418 total yards on the day. However, the Broncos D was fantastic when the ball was in the red zone. They held the Chargers to just 1-5 in the red zone. The old bend but don't break D worked well on Sunday and nearly helped us pull out a W. Special shout out to the DL, Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard and the safeties. When the Chargers were in the red zone, those guys were at the top of their game.
I really like the direction that our OL is headed. On Sunday, the OL played very well. They gave the QB's plenty of time in the pass game, opened up holes in the run game and they didn't give up any sacks. What more can you ask for? Orlando Franklin and Zane Beadles stood out to me on a couple of plays. Both excelled at blocking down field on a few runs. Beadles and Walton have shown noticeable improvement over the past few weeks. Franklin is not performing nearly as bad as some feared. The OL did more then enough to let the Broncos pull out the W. The key now will be for J.D. Walton and Tim Tebow to get in synch.
I like Cassius Vaughn. He is young and has a lot to improve on, but he reeks of potential. He could be a very good CB for Denver if he could ever find the football in the air. Nevertheless, on Sunday, Vaughn not only intercepted Phillip Rivers, but he also returned it for a touchdown...then he gave a Mile High Salute. Technically, Vaughn got beat for a TD on Sunday, but the majority of that blame lies on Quinton Carter who was supposed to be helping Vaughn over the top. Vaughn did a pretty good job against one of the better passing offenses in the league. He finished the day with 4 tackles and 2 pass deflections. If he continues to learn from Champ, he could be quite valuable in the future. For now, I am seeing him improve from one week to the next.
Whoever was feeding Britton Colquitt during the lockout must have fed him something extra because the guy has transformed from a mediocre punter to one of the best in the league. In case you didn't know, on Sunday, Britton punted the ball 6 times for 322 yards, a 53.7 yards per punt. Resigning him is a no brainer. Pay the man and we have our punter for the next decade.
Earlier in the week, in an interview, Spencer Larsen said that Joe Mays was easily Denver's hardest hitter. Joe only solidified that notion on Sunday. Joe punished Ryan Matthews, Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester all afternoon. On one particular play, Mays burst into the backfield unblocked and crushed Ryan Matthews as soon as he touched the ball. Even the announcers were left saying "Oooooh. Wow". Mays is a fantastic run defender who continues to make plays for this defense. He sill struggles with coverage and he missed too many tackles as well as took some bad angles on Sunday, but when Mays gets a straight shot at the ball carrier, it's no contest.
It appears that the Kyle Orton era has ended in Denver. I thought that the Orton era should have ended after last year, but John Fox needed 4 1/2 games before realizing that Orton is not the answer. In his one half of play against the Chargers, Orton threw 6/13 for 34 yards and 1 interception. He would have had 2 interceptions, but Eric Weddle dropped that opportunity in the 2nd quarter. Orton looked awful against the Chargers. With the running game clicking, he was unable to do anything with the offense. At half time, he looked defeated, he was benched and he never saw the field again. He said in his post game interview that he still thinks he is the starter until John Fox tells him otherwise. Well Kyle, I wouldn't come to work tomorrow if I were you.
Somehow, after putting up great run defenses against the Bengals, Titans and Packers, the Broncos got torched on the ground by the Chargers. In fact, the Chargers gained over 200 yards on the ground altogether. This is atrocious. Ryan Matthews did the majority of the damage gaining a career high 125 yards on the ground. I haven't gotten to watch the game again, but my initial impression is that the linebackers were at fault, not the DL for the success of the Chargers run game. With Marcus Thomas back in the lineup, the team has 2 weeks to try and get back to stopping the run like they did against the Titans.
Von Miller, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter all struggled against the Chargers. Miller was actually benched for messing up assignments. Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter might be a great duo one day, but today they both looked like rookies who had trouble sticking with Phillip Rivers, especially Carter who was responsible for the deep touchdown before halftime. Von struggled for the first time this year, but he also notched another sack giving him 5 on the year.
Time Of Possession
The Broncos offense had the ball a total of 19:52 while the Chargers had the ball a whopping 40:08. That means that the Chargers had possession of the ball twice as much as the Broncos. A large part of this is because Kyle Orton couldn't get a 1st down to save his life in the 1st half. However, Tebow didn't get a first down until the 4th quarter. This is the first time the time of possession has been way out of wack for the Broncos so I am going to treat it like a one time thing. For the Broncos sake, it better be.
The Broncos committed 4 penalties for 53 yards. The number is not a lot, but in a close divisional game, the Broncos can't afford to give up 50 yards in field position. The penalty on DJ Williams, I will address below, but 3 Broncos were flagged for Unnecessary Roughness penalties: Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil and Rahim Moore. We got to cut those things down because in a close game, they will kill you.
I have a real bone to pick with the referees. 1st off, they didn't call a single penalty on the Chargers. That is absurd. The game I witnessed had plenty of flaggable offenses for the Chargers. The refs just didn't see them or just didn't care. The one play that really ticks me off is the one in the 4th quarter before the 2 minute mark. The Broncos had stopped the Chargers short of a 1st down and a 3rd down was upcoming. A Chargers player knocked into DJ, DJ retaliated with a slight head bud and DJ got the penalty. Automatic first down for Chargers. At a point like that, that penalty is ridiculous and borderline cheating. There was equal contact. The flag should not have been thrown. Finally, the refs totally and completely overlooked the blatant shove of Matthew Willis on the final play of the game. That is passing interference no matter what play of the game. Open your eyes and throw the damn flag.
Why do the Broncos keep getting stuck with this awful announcers. It's torture listening to some of these idiots comment on the game. Rich Gannon felt the need to criticize every thing that Tebow did no matter what. Tim would run and he would say Tim needs to keep his eyes down field. Tim threw the nice pass to Brandon Lloyd on the 2 point conversion and Gannon criticized Tebow because he was on his back foot and the ball "could have been more accurate". I guess it doesn't matter that Tim hit Brandon right in his hands and gave him a totally catchable ball. I hope I don't have to listen to Gannon again. Shouldn't he be broadcasting a Raider game or maybe a pee wee game?
This morning I tweeted this:
I woke up this morning with a weird feeling...a Tebow feeling...and I don't know why.
I had a feeling that Tebow was going to be a factor in yesterday's game, but had no idea he was going to nearly lead us to an upset victory. It is never fun to lose, but if losing were fun, this is definitely a prime example of that. John Fox finally made the switch from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow. Now, he said after the game that he would evaluate everything, but it's clear to that there is no other choice. Tim Tebow is going to get his shot starting in 2 weeks against the Miami Dolphins. He will have 2 weeks to prepare thanks to the bye week. It is going to be up to him to prove to EFX that he is worth developing instead of grabbing a QB early in the 2012 draft. If Tim is going to be the starter here, he is going to have to lead Denver to a record that would take them out of the QB race for Luck/Barkley/Jones. Can he do it? I have no idea, but what I do know is that it is certainly going to be fun to watch. After months of asking, begging, and demanding for it. It is now Tebow Time. Until next time, MHR.