Hello folks! It's time for the divisional playoff edition of "Unfinished Business". Hope that your new year is going well so far. Since Denver had the weekend off to find out who they will play on Sunday, I will review their playoff opponent's game and discuss what Denver needs to do to advance to the AFC Championship game at Mile High.
Wild Card - Well after the games this past weekend, the Broncos know that the San Diego Chargers will be coming to town to face Peyton Manning. Many of us at MHR wanted the Colts after they spent a ton of energy (and the Chiefs blowing a 28 point lead) to win. I know that I wanted the Bengals to win to make that happen. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton and the Bengals decided to melt down and give the Chargers the game losing 27-10. That makes 24 years since the Bengals won a playoff game so Chiefs fans should feel a little better about their team's playoff failures.
Chargers - The Chargers come in to Denver riding a five game winning streak. One of those wins during that streak came at the expense of the Broncos in Week 15. That particular game was played on a Thursday night after defeating the Titans in Week 14 with the offense executing 92 plays and Peyton Manning throwing 59 times. In addition to the offense being worn out, the defense was under upheaval with changes in the lineup and people still injured. Add those issues in and it led to a 27-20 loss. It was easily the worst effort that we have seen out of the Broncos. Ryan Mathews ran, ran and ran some more for 127 yards. Philip Rivers was not statistically great, but effective in the game. He made sure to look for Kayvon Webster and throw to the guy he was covering on 75% of his completions. The defense and special teams had some bone-headed penalties and plays as well which led to Sand Diego's overwhelming time of possession advantage.
In the playoff game San Diego played against the Bengals, the first half was mostly controlled by Cincy. The Chargers scored first with Mathews and Ronnie Brown accounting for most of the yardage on the ground. Danny Woodhead capped it off with a TD run. After exchanging punts, the Bengals finally tied the game with Dalton passing to Jermaine Gresham for the score. When San Diego was forced to punt again, the Bengals looked like they were on their way to score another TD only to see Giovani Bernard fumble away a catch inside the Charger 5. The Chargers did nothing with the possession and punted. Cincy drove down and kicked a FG as time expired in the first half, leading 10-7.
After the second half began, the Bengals punted on their first possession. SD took the ball and drove 80 yards to take the lead with Rivers throwing to Ladarius Green for the score. The highlight of this drive was the 33 yard reception by former Bronco Eddie Royal. The Bengals turned into the Bungles with Andy Dalton fumbling the ball on their next possession. San Diego capitalized on the mistake with a Nick Novak FG. Next possession as if on cue, Dalton threw an interception that put the ball on Cincy's 3. The Chargers only came away with a FG to make it 20-10. The Bengals got the ball again only to see it picked off. Fortunately for Cincy, the Chargers didn't score with it. After a SD punt, the Bengals drove to the SD 41, but turned it over on downs. SD was forced to punt again and the Bengals blew it again by turning it over on downs a second time. The Chargers capped off the scoring with a 58 yard run by Ronnie Brown to make it 27-10. Overall, the game was even on the stats board with the exception of the turnovers. Four turnovers for a team in the playoffs is a guaranteed loss most of the time.
For the Broncos to take this game and host the AFC Championship, the focus needs to be on playing fundamental football. In the last game against San Diego, the tackling was very poor and the running game was non-existent when they only rushed for 18 yards. Don't be surprised if the Chargers try to take the air out of the ball and hold it as long as possible. They didn't get many large gains against the Bengals, but will take advantage of mistakes. When the Broncos get the ball, they must make every drive count with points. Denver only had nine possessions the last time with four punts and an interception. As long as Denver plays like they are capable and this time they are well-rested, this should be a win. The Chargers are playing with house money and have nothing to lose so it's imperative that Denver gets out to a sizable lead and prevent the Chargers from running and hitting the short passes. Good news is that this time DRC, Champ Bailey and Wes Welker are playing so the match ups will be more to Denver's advantage. Without Von Miller the pass D will have to get creative in getting pressure on Rivers. They can't afford to let him sit in the pocket for a long time.
That's all I have for now. Time to get fired up and send Rivers and Co. to the off-season. GO BRONCOS!!!