Last time around the Chargers overcame an early 10-3 deficit through ball control (44 rushes for 177 yards) and an effective 3rd down offense that kept the Broncos offense on the sideline for over 38 minutes. They scored 21 unanswered during a stretch in which Manning and company had four drives that totaled 13 plays. Rivers did not have to do much, but when he threw the ball it seemed as if he targeted rookie Kayvon Webster who allowed 7 receptions on 8 completions.
Their defense stifled the Broncos running game and held them to only 18 yards on 11 carries. Coverage was tough and some athletic plays by Eric Weddle on blitzes kept some big plays from happening. Overall our defense failed to get it done, but they were also shaken up by the benching of two starters just four days earlier. I'll never understand that move and I lay a great deal of blame for that loss at the feet of Jack Del Rio. Ultimately what came of that move was Omar Bolden back on the bench, with Duke Ihenacho on base downs and Michael Huff in sub packages, and Paris Lenon on base downs with Wesley Woodyard in sub packages.
The Charger Pass Rush
They have registered 8 sacks and many more pressures and hurries over the last 4 games. Yesterday they sacked Andy Dalton three times and made sure the timing of that WCO was off the entire 2nd half. A big fuss was made about Melvin Ingram yesterday (that was a terrible throw by Dalton), but truth is he only has 1 sack and 5 hurries in 5 games. Most of their pressure comes from the front four led by Corey Liuget and his 5.5 sacks.
WR Keenan Allen
Yesterday Allen caught just 2 balls for 21 yards. In fact since his two touchdown performance against Denver, Allen has accounted for just one touchdown.
An honorable mention here is Ryan Mathews who finished the season strong, but left the game early yesterday and has been fighting a lingering ankle issue. The oft injured back is not guaranteed to go against the Broncos on Sunday which would be a huge loss for the Bolts given his previous success against the Denver D.
Matchup to Watch
Phillip Rivers vs. Broncos secondary
I could have said Keenan Allen but if the Broncos are smart and put Rodgers-Cromartie on him all game, he should be a non factor. Really this chess match is Rivers vs. the Broncos secondary. Though he didn't have to throw a lot the last time around, each throw was effective and managed to keep drives moving at critical points. With Mike McCoy in charge, Rivers has more ability to audible and make presnap adjustments. This has led to one of his best seasons as a pro. Rivers has weapons especially with the emergence of TE Ladarius Green so the Broncos must be on their game to limit their impact.
The Broncos are a better team, but this is no slam dunk. Though Manning and the Broncos hold a 3-1 record over the Chargers, each game his been contested at some point. Another flat performance like week 15 will send the Broncos home one and done for the 2nd year in a row.
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