2013 NFL Playoffs: Broncos vs. Chargers - 7 Keys to the game

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

A few more days Broncos Country.....CAN'T WAIT!

Offense

  1. Get the running game going. Last time out Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno combined for 18 yards on 11 carries. It starts up front, the offensive line has to get the Chargers front on their heels right from the snap. A big part of our issues as a team were converting 3rd downs and this was a major reason why- no traction on 1st/2nd down.
  2. Convert 3rd downs. Here's an interesting stat. The Broncos converted 22% against SD in week 15, 18% against the Texans in week 16, and 38% against the Raiders. In 3 games that was 7/33 (21%). Prior to that stretch, the Broncos had been hovering close to 50%. What was the difference? Wes Welker. Now, Welker has caught 18 balls on 3rd down so it isn't as if raw production is what we've missed. We've missed the pressure a guy like Welker puts on the coverage schemes that allow other guys a chance to eat.
  3. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker need to be more physical off of press coverage. Demaryius especially struggled in the 2nd half against press man. Inexcusable for a man his size.
  4. Manning needs to do better against the blitz. The Chargers did a good job at disguising things. Peyton had a difficult time sliding protections. On one play in particular they ran playaction on 3rd and short against a called blitz. Beadles pulled leaving Liuget with a wide open path to Manning, Moreno was slow getting to the edge, and so was Beadles. Peyton avoided Liuget but was put down by the blitzing corner. Needs to see those things.
  5. Hit the checkdown. I saw an open Knowshon Moreno so many times short and over the middle for what would have been good gains, but Manning went somewhere else. More patience is needed if they are hanging tough on the backend.
  6. Be a step ahead, not a step behind. By now the Manning and the offense have gone through game film from that 2nd meeting and have identified the coverages San Diego liked to use in certain situations. Last time the Broncos offense lost the chess game. Can't afford to this time.
  7. No turnovers. The Broncos finished off the season with two turnover free games. With this potent offensive attack, no turnovers means more points plain and simple.

Defense

  1. Keep DRC on Keenan Allen. Last time around, DRC allowed just 1 reception on 4 targets for the problematic #1. We are not likely to see Kayvon Webster very much if at all. Since Champ Bailey is back in the lineup, that gives us two viable options to matchup against light and heavy personnel with Chris Harris likely to split duty on Antonio Gates and Vincent Brown. Look for Champ Bailey to step in and shadow Eddie Royal. Across the board I like our chances already.
  2. Rough that country boy up. Rivers plays with a lot of emotion. I want our D-line to hit him as often as possible, get back up and talk some smack. Rivers is not immune to getting flustered and is a streaky QB. If the Broncos can get to him early, it will take a lot of game time for him to find his rhythm.
  3. Plug them gaps fat men of the middle! Knighton has emerged as a disruptive force inside, and Sly Williams has played much better as of late. These two will be the key to stopping that Charger running game which may already be at a disadvantage with a hobbled Ryan Mathews.
  4. Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, and Shaun Phillips must get pressure without the Broncos having to blitz someone from the secondary.
  5. Win 1st down. The Chargers kept drives alive by getting to manageable 3rd downs and converting them.
  6. On base downs the Chargers can run 12 personnel and create a mismatch with Paris Lenon either with Green or Gates. Broncos would do well to try and have Trevathan stick to Gates much of the game while providing some bracket help with the safety for Lenon.
  7. Force FG's. The difference between the 1st game and 2nd game was largely the fact that the Chargers could not punch the ball into the endzone early on during the 1st game. That led to a 21-6 lead right before halftime. 2nd time around the Chargers converted those opportunities into touchdowns. Make them count by 3's while our offense counts by 7's.

Special Teams

Real quick before I wrap-up

- Trindon Holliday, for the love of everything that is good and just in this world HOLD ONTO THE MOTHERF#@##$%# BALL!

- Matt Prater, please continue being awesome, please don't kick the ground like you did last year.

Wrap-up

I think the Chargers can keep the game close for awhile. What will determine a Broncos victory is how they respond to that early storm and how they adapt on the sidelines to get the momentum moving. One thing is for sure, though the Broncos are one of the few teams that can offset mistakes because of their prolific offense, this is not a game that needs to be played during the tournament. Though the Chargers will be a worthy adversary, I think the Broncos will pull away late in the game.

My Prediction?

Broncos 35, Chargers 20

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