For those of you who don't know, the line in the title is from Ace Ventura, pet detective. Rivers' actions during games have always driven my distaste of him (as a player - apparently he is good guy off the field), but his comments after the game (which I was forced to watch while in the barber shop waiting to get my hair cut) really made my blood boil. Hatred aside Rivers picked apart our unprepared and (seemingly) unmotivated defense. It's hard to call this the worst defensive performance of the year after surrendering 48 to the Cowboys, but you could make an argument for this game.
Dan Marino Should Die (via YYYYYEEEEHHH)
vs the Titans
Since I didn't do a review after the Titans' game, I will roll that into this review as well. After getting down early against the Titans, the Broncos stayed on script. The offense got in gear and the defense stiffened. For the game the Titans were forced into 3rd and long 6 times, converting only once:
|3rd and 11 at TEN 8||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick sacked at TEN 1 for -7 yards (M.Jackson).|
|3rd and 12 at TEN 18||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete deep right to N.Washington.|
|3rd and 9 at TEN 41||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short left to N.Washington to TEN 49 for 8 yards (D.R-Cromartie).|
|3rd and 9 at TEN 39||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right to N.Washington to DEN 45 for 16 yards (K.Webster).|
|3rd and 7 at TEN 26||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short middle to M.Preston to TEN 32 for 6 yards (D.Bruton).|
|3rd and 17 at TEN 13||(Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short right to N.Washington. Penalty on TEN-D.Stewart, Offensive Holding, declined.|
The lone conversion on 3rd and long came on a nice throw to Washington with Webster covering. Tennessee only had three other 3rd down situations during the game, all medium, and they were only able to convert one of those:
5 (converted with a 10 yd catch), 6 and 4 yards to go. So we held the Titans, who are #6 in the league at converting on 3rd down, to 2 for 9 of 3rd down overall. A lot of this was a result of us keeping them from moving the ball on 2nd down as the did not have a single 3rd and short on the game. The Titans were pretty good at running on us on 1st down gaining 80 yards on 14 1st down carries (5.8 ypc). On 2nd and 3rd down runs they only gained 16 yards on 8 carries. Their 3 longest runs of the day came on 1st down (28 TD, 18 and 11 yards). The Broncos had only one TFL and only one stop for no gain on the Titans' first down runs.
vs the Chargers
The story was very different against SD. The defense looked disorganized (two 12 men on the field penalties and a defensive timeout early in the 2nd half), slow (edge setting) and dispirited (arm tackles). Both of our DEs did a poor job of setting the edge and Lenon got burned multiple times by taking poor angles in run support. SD came into the game 2nd in the league on 3rd down conversion % and left the game leading the league in the category by virtue of converting 6 of 12 against our fading defense. The Broncos offense converted a season low 2 of 9 3rd downs. Even when the Broncos were able to force SD into 3rd and long, they were able to convert, moving the chains on 3 of 7 3rd and long situations:
|3rd and 7 at DEN 33||Philip Rivers pass complete to Antonio Gates for 14 yards to the DENVER 19 for a 1ST down.|
|3rd and 11 at DEN 20||Philip Rivers pass incomplete to Keenan Allen.|
|3rd and 19 at SD 36||Ronnie Brown rush up the middle for 5 yards to the SANDIEGO 41, tackled by Von Miller.|
|3rd and 7 at DEN 10||Philip Rivers pass complete to Keenan Allen for 10 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.|
|3rd and 9 at SD 33||Philip Rivers pass complete to Vincent Brown for 32 yards to the DENVER 35, tackled by Kayvon Webster for a 1ST down.|
|3rd and 7 at DEN 44||Philip Rivers sacked by Shaun Phillips for a loss of 6 yards to the 50 yard line.|
|3rd and 7 at DEN 20||Ryan Mathews rush over left tackle for 4 yards to the DENVER 16, tackled by Sylvester Williams.|
That 32 yard completion to Brown on 3rd and 9 was a real back breaker as it not only came on the opening drive of the second half (TD drive), but we also burned a defensive timeout on that drive after that conversion. Each of the 3rd and long conversions came on a scoring drive by the Chargers (FG, TD, TD) with one of the conversion coming on the 10 yd TD catch by Allen near the end of the second quarter that gave the Chargers the lead that they would never relinquish.
The other five 3rd downs for the Chargers were 1, 6, 4, 6 and 1 needed to gain. They converted on 3 of the 5 with our two 3rd down stops coming on the 4 yd needed (incomplete) and the second 3rd and 1 (a 2 yard loss). They converted both 3rd and 6's. While SD was able to convert like they have all year on 3rd down against us, what really hurt the Broncos (both defensively and offensively) this game was our inability to stop the Chargers on first down runs. The Chargers possessed the ball for almost 39 minutes of the game.
The Chargers ran the ball 42 times on the game with 24 of those runs coming on first down (this excludes the kneel-downs that ended each half). On those 24 first down runs the Chargers gained 116 yards (4.8 ypc). Of course it's not like we did that much better on 2nd and 3rd down runs where the Chargers gained 61 yards on 18 carries (3.4 ypc). The front seven did have some nice plays on first down runs with 3 stops for no gain and 3 TFLs, but those were balanced by four runs of 10 or more on first down and two more runs of 9 yards. Maybe we can forgive some of those near the end of the game because of the fatigue that our D was surely feeling (particularly that last 9 yard run on the final FG drive after the INT), but there were far too many bad angles, hooked DEs and flat-out missed tackles to see it as other than what it was: our D got manhandled in the run game. Much like we did to the Pats, the Chargers were able to run effectively in the cold and pass when needed. The Chargers had 8 real drives (not counting the two kneel-downs) and scored on 5 of them. They had two 12-play drives, one 11-play drive and one 8-play drive.
They followed the old script for beating a PFM-led offense - control the clock and keep him off the field. Early in the year, that strategy was a losing one because our D was good enough at stopping the run game and stopping teams on 3rd down that Manning got the ball back and did lots of damage once he had it. Last Thursday, this was not the case. Hopefully, this was the low point for our defense and offense this season. While we only gave up 27, the defense was outplayed for most of the game - only forcing one 3 and out (would have been 2 if not for Nate Irving). Offensively and defensively, the Chargers dominated the LOS. As an old offensive lineman, this is the worst thing for me to see in a loss.
The Broncos were outplayed in all three facets of the game. I've just discussed our defense. Offensively, our line played hopefully it's worst game, giving our runners almost no room to work and allowing Manning to be pressured more than normal (despite only 2 sacks). The Broncos only converted 2 of 9 3rd downs against a SD D that came into the game in the bottom third of the league in 3rd % conversions allowed. The Chargers are also the worst team in the league in terms of yards allowed per play at 6.3. So they found a way to compensate for that by only allowing the Broncos to run 53 plays against them (after running 91 offensive plays against the Titans). In terms of special teams, outside the almost-unforgivable offsides on a 4th and 4 punt, the Chargers won the punting game (when we forced them to punt) and Holliday made a questionable decision (again) making a fair catch at the 5. Additionally Holliday got himself tackled at the 10 on a KO return from the goal line. The Broncos had 9 drives on the game, four of them started inside the 20 at the 11, 10, 6 and 3 yard lines. Only one of those drives resulted in points.
The most worrisome point about the whole game for me was how sloppy our defense looked and played. The two 12 men on the field penalties were the most glaring result, but there were many times when it appeared as if our defense was confused or not set prior to the snap. I know that JDR has used this type of "simulated confusion" in the past to throw off the opposing D, but last game the confusion did not appear simulated. It genuinely looked like some of the guys on field had no idea what they were supposed to do on a given play. I truly believe that one of the reasons that D was playing so well during last year's 11 game winning streak was the lack of injury and the continuity/familiarity that the starters had with each other. That is obviously lacking right now and I sincerely hope that the ship gets righted in the last two regular season games, otherwise we are in for another disappointing early exit from the playoffs this year. The sky is not falling, but our defense really needs to improve over the last two games of the regular season otherwise I don't like our chances at all at bringing home the Lombardi trophy this year.