Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers: 7 Keys to Victory

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Happy gameday Broncos Country! Here is my take on what the Broncos must do tonight in order to defeat the San Diego Chargers.

Defense

1) Bend but don't break

The first time around our Broncos defense held the Chargers to two first half FG's after they successfully marched the ball into the redzone. It was the difference in the game. I have given up completely on our defense becoming an elite unit that can force multitudes of 3 and outs. At this point in the season, we have yet to hold an opponent under 17 points. So long as we give up 3 instead of 6, our team can be successful.

2) Give up the zone

Playing zone coverage may protect some of our weaker defenders on the back end but it also does so to the detriment of our man players on the outside. Eddie Royal logged a big 30+ yard reception last game because the safety (Rahim Moore) did not take him after Chris Harris had passed him through the zone. The result? Chris Harris chasing him down. Eddie Royal is not good enough to win man to man, but you give him some soft zone and he will eat it alive, same with Rivers other weapons.

3) Old man Lenon better step up, Omar Bolden better not give up a big play

I think Paris Lenon might be an upgrade in the running game. He's bigger, more physical, and brings something the Broncos desperately need with both Kevin Vickerson and Derek Wolfe out of the game. Wolfe demanded double teams and could take on two gaps even with his slender frame. Vickerson routinely knifed through the line disrupting and pushing the play for waiting defenders on the outside. Our run defense no longer has that so our linebackers have to make more plays.

That being said, Lenon is going to drop some plays in coverage because, well he's old and slow. If I were the Chargers I'd run crossing routes and use my tightends in the middle all game.

Omar Bolden is quite possibly our worse defender in the secondary (perhaps Michael Huff is worse). That being said Duke Ihenacho has played so poorly that difference between the two is negligible. One thing all of our safeties have done in this last 4-5 game stretch is allow a big play over the top because 1) they have their eyes in the backfield 2) they bite on a shorter crossing route leaving guys like Quentin Jammer on an island. If the Broncos are going to continue to play a lot of man free with this lineup, that centerfielder damn well better stay back and protect against the big play.

4) Get in Rivers grill

When pressured this year, Rivers completion percentage drops 20 points, his yards per attempt drops by half a yard, and he throws as many interceptions as touchdowns. The key is to get the pressure with the front four. Rivers has done well against blitzes. It will be up to Malik, Phillips, Miller, and Knighton to push that pocket and make things uncomfortable for him.

5) Consider bracketing Ladarius Green

Though not a huge fixture in the Chargers offense to this point, their younger TE is a big play waiting to happen. Against Kansas City a couple of weeks ago Green took a slant and out ran safety Eric Berry all the way to the house for a 60-yard TD. At 6'6" and 240 he is just as athletic as Julius Thomas. In the last three games he has 9 receptions for 206 yards and 2 TD's.

6) Watch Woodhead coming out of the backfield

What I think will happen with Woodyard is he will still be one of two linebackers against lighter personnel. Lenon may play against base personnel. If this is the case it will likely be a combination of Woodyard and Trevathan charged in coverage. Woodhead creates a mismatch against both defenders especially on some designed wheel routes the likes of which Denver has used to spring Montee Ball open down the field. Especially in the redzone look for this matchup.

7) Run defense must step up

For our defense to make things difficult on San Diego, they must not be able to run the ball successfully on 1st down. It does too many things. The playaction game with those TE's opens up, their playbook is available to them come 3rd down. You have to make things easier on yourself by bottling up Ryan Mathews. If he gets going and can get 3-5 yards a pop consistently on 1st down, we're in for a dogfight.

When the Chargers pass the ball: Advantage Chargers

This is by far the weakest unit on our team. Rivers is having a great year and has some good weapons to throw to.

When the Chargers run the ball: Advantage Chargers

Our run defense has not been the same with Wolfe and Vickerson out of the lineup.

Offense

1) Be more patient

Going back to the coaches film, I noticed Manning dumping the ball off very quickly. Sometimes it was valid, sometimes, there was no rush. Point is on several of those non-rush plays, Manning missed a better target down the field by going short early.

2) Hurry, Hurry!!!

Until the playoffs this is the last homegame of the season. The Broncos should use the crowd and altitude to their advantage early and look to wear out the Chargers in the 1st half. We are quite used to slower starts and strong finishes. It would be nice to start off 100MPH and not let up until we are leading by three scores.

3) Take advantage of Tamme's frame

Tamme is not your traditional slot receiver. He gives Manning his fourth option on the field that stands at 6'3" or taller. He is a more imposing figure over the middle, and he should provide a bigger target and catch radius than Wes Welker. Throw it up to your big men and let them go make plays.

4) Let Knowshon and Ball eat

Feed them the rock, feed em some more, and then feed them some more. This duo is getting hot and can eat up yards early in drives providing opportunities for big plays down the field. Both are an equal footing at the moment. Both have shown the ability to pick up the pressure and both can catch the ball effectively out of the backfield. Keep them involved against an underwhelming group of linebackers.

5) Catfish Teo

Use two and three TE sets. Get the Chargers to keep Teo in the game, and then tax his ass in the passing game.

6) No drops, no fumbling, no turnovers

I counted 5-6 drops last week. Every receiver had one. No more stone hands fellahs. Last week also marked just the 2nd game all season where the Broncos didn't commit a turnover. A championship team cannot fumble the way the Broncos did earlier in the season, a superior team cannot let their inferior opponent make up ground by leveling the playing field with turnovers.

7) Happy feet are back!

Notice that Peyton Manning had happy feet against last week? Broncos fans should love seeing that because it means he is finally healthy. He is able to shuffle in the pocket and buy time before stepping into throws. Happy feet means happy Peyton which means happy Broncos fans.

When the Broncos pass the ball: Advantage Broncos

I believe 100% that Peyton Manning can tie the all time single season record for TD passes in a season tonight.

When the Broncos run the ball: Advantage Broncos

Other than Manning, the hothand on offense has been our running game. I see no reason for that to change tonight.

Wildcards: Bill Vinovich, Michael Huff

Broncos fans know who this POS is. Last time he called a Broncos game, he and his crew made replacement officiating look good. When looking back at 2012, I do not recognize Joe Flacco as the MVP of the postseason. It was Bill Vinovich and his terrible officiating that put the Ravens on their flukish run. He calls the game tonight--will it matter? I hope not.

Michael Huff has yet to see the field as a Denver Bronco. With all the struggles and inconsistencies at safety, why not give him a shot as well? Can't be any worse than Omar Bolden.

My Prediction

The team who's defense is less a sieve than the other team will win the game. I hate to say it but we are in for a shootout Broncos Country.

Broncos 45 Chargers 34
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