It was nice to receive yet another sign that these 2014 Denver Broncos are nothing like the one that closed out 2013. They played cat and mouse with the San Diego Chargers early on, but once the flood gates opened, Peyton Manning poured it on in a big way. At one point, the score was 28-7 and victory was never truly in doubt.
The Orange Crush defense reared its ugly head again, harassing Philip Rivers all night long. Rivers hung in there and made some great plays to keep the Chargers within striking distance of a potential comeback, but every time the tide seemed to be turning in their favor a Broncos defender snatched back the momentum with a big play of their own.
This week's "in focus" wasn't quite as filthy as last week, but it was still incredible. The offense put up combined score of +10.3, while the defense put up their on double-digit night with a score of +10.1. Von Miller topped +2.8 on Thursday Night Football, but amazingly, that put him just outside Top 3 on defense this week. That's how good these guys were rolling.
RB Ronnie Hillman +4.2. Ronnie Hillman absolutely gashed the Chargers front seven for some huge runs and easily posted his best PFF Grade to date. Since taking over the starting job from Montee Ball, Hillman has steadily increased his grade from a horrendous -3.4 against the New York Jets to a +2.4 against the San Francisco 49ers and now a +4.2 a couple of days ago. If this keeps trending, Ball is likely going to have to wait until training camp to fight for his job again.
RG Louis Vasquez +3.1. The run blocking grades have increased significantly since Hillman took over, but the one consistent guy along the line has been Vasquez. This is the second time this season that Vasquez has eclipsed the +3.0 mark and if he can find more consistency in the running game there will be little argument as to which guard is the best in the NFL come seasons end.
RT Paul Cornick +2.5. Though I am a little annoyed that Emmanuel Sanders couldn't make this list at +2.0 due to a fumble he had that was recovered by Wes Welker, it was nice to see Paul Cornick bounce back from a terrible first start last weekend against the 49ers. He posted an adequate grade in run blocking, but a stellar +2.3 while in pass protection. Hopefully this kind of production continues, because it seems it may not be worth trading for a right tackle after seeing him play the other night.
Needs Improvement: Orlando Franklin had a bad day at the office on Thursday Night. His -3.4 was the worst offensive grade by a large margin, beating out Manny Ramirez by a over two points for that distinction. It seems Franklin is on this good game/bad game stretch, so hopefully he works things out. Ramirez on the other hand has been consistently weak to start the season with a combined -8.3 through seven games. He too needs to step his game up significantly.
CB Aqib Talib +3.3. Taking the top spot on defense, Aqib Talib showed why John Elway went out there and threw some big time money at Talib to get him to don the orange and blue. Being paired with his college teammate, Chris Harris Jr. has, in my opinion, been a huge boost to the teams overall chemistry on defense after so much turnover. I am excited to see this play continue.
LB Brandon Marshall +3.1. For the third consecutive week, Brandon Marshall has topped +2.0 in PFF grading. I'm not even sure what the Broncos are going to do when Danny Trevathan comes back from injury. I saw Marshall get beat once all night on Thursday and it was on a screen pass late in the game. Every other screen pass, he personally blew it the hell up for a loss or a very short gain.
DE Derek Wolfe +2.9. Part of me wanted to put Von Miller here due to Miller playing in 16 more snaps, but we got to spread the love around here. Wolfe has been an absolutely beast in the run game, but on Thursday Night he also showed up with some significant pass rushing skills. This is Wolfe's third week our of the last four of scoring +1.3 or better. I think people are underrating how important he is to the interior line overall.
Needs Improvement: Since Rahim Moore made this list last week, I felt I should at least mention he bounced back with a solid +2.6 performance against the Chargers. It's good to see him get some confidence back after his gruesome led ordeal last year. This week, Bradley Roby is going to make our list. He was the third worst grade at -1.7, but the other two guys combined did not play has many snaps as Roby did on the night. We expect this from a rookie cornerback at times, so we'll take it as it is and hope he bounces back with a great performance against the future Hall of Famer quarterback in Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.