Division games, whether home or away, are always going to be tough. The opponent knows you too well. Generally this can make up for things like injuries and differences in talent. In the case of last night's game, this could not have been more true. The Chargers head coach was our offensive coordinator and QB coach for 4 seasons. The Chargers defensive coordinator was the DC for the Colts for a long time while PFM was there. So the Chargers familiarity with us goes beyond the normal familiarity of a divisional opponent. You know what - It didn't matter. The Broncos continued to play quite well on offense and defense (the Chargers actually beat us on special teams since we nearly fumbled a kickoff and missed a FG).
Overall the defense did not play as well against SD as they did against SF. Much of this is a result of Rivers playing better right now than Kaepernick. While the boxscore shows that we gave up fewer yards to the Chargers than the 49ers (306 to 310 with 23 coming on that final stat-padding run by Oliver), the defense did allow 3 long TD drives by the Chargers so they definitely were not as dominant as the previous game. In the second half of the game against SD, our defense only forced one punt (admittedly we also picked off Phillip twice in the second half). All three of the TD drives that we allowed were 80 or more yard drives. While the box score shows that we held the best offense in the league at converting 3rd downs to 4 of 10, The boxscore does don't include the two 3rd downs that we allowed via penalty so the reality is that we allowed SD to convert 6 of 12 last night - right at what they have been doing this season so far.
Defense on 3rd and Long
Of the 12 3rd down situations that we forced, 6 were of the "7 or more needed" variety with three of those being 10 or more needed for conversion. Here are the situations and the results
|Broncos Defense on 3 and 7 or more
|3rd and 9 at SD 15
|(3:15) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass incomplete deep left to K.Allen.
|3rd and 7 at SD 39
|(12:01) (No Huddle, Shotgun) P.Rivers sacked at SD 34 for -5 yards (V.Miller).
|3rd and 20 at DEN 33
|(3:57) (No Huddle, Shotgun) P.Rivers pass deep middle to A.Gates to DEN 2 for 31 yards (B.Roby).
|Conversion by catch
|3rd and 11 at SD 19
|(13:42) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass deep left intended for K.Allen INTERCEPTED by C.Harris at SD 37. C.Harris to SD 36 for 1 yard (K.Allen). PENALTY on DEN-M.Jackson, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at SD 36. The Replay Official challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands.
|3rd and 12 at SD 23
|(9:41) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass incomplete deep left to M.Floyd.
|3rd and 8 at SD 22
|(6:53) (No Huddle, Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short left to E.Royal to SD 31 for 9 yards (B.Roby).
|Conversion by catch
The Chargers converted only 2 of 6 3rd and longs, but that conversion on 3rd and 20 was painful as they went on to score the game-tying TD on that drive and a stop there would have forced a FG. For the season we have allowed conversion on 16 of 54 3rd and longs (29.6%). Right now league-wide the conversion rate on 3rd and 7 or more is 28.5% (449 of 1578) so we are roughly average relative to the rest of the league keeping in mind that I count penalty conversions while the league does not in their stats (so according to their stats we have only allowed 13 of 51 - 25.5% making us above average).
I am going to start doing an in-depth analysis of one of the 3rd and long plays listed each week - in this case I will be looking at the 3rd and 20 that Rivers converted with a pass to Gates for 31 setting up their first TD.
How we allowed a conversion on 3rd and 20
We're in a dime defense in this case, 3-2-6, to counter the trips left formation of the Chargers with Floyd, Royal and Gates on the offensive left, Allen on the right and Oliver in the backfield. Wolfe, Jackson and Ware are the thee down lineman with both linebackers, Miller and Marshall, on the defensive left. Talib is in single coverage on the defensive left on Allen. Q. Carter is lined up inside Gates. Roby is lined up over Royal giving him a big cushion. CHJ has Floyd. Ward is walked up on the faking a blitz - he will actually lock up Royal in man coverage at the snap. Moore is in single high safety in the deep middle.
The pass rush is not bad, Marshall stunted behind Miller and is step away from Rivers when he throws the ball. Miller and Ware have forced Rivers to step up into the pocket where he had room because Jackson and Wolfe have been blocked well. Carter plays his coverage of Gates as if he were expecting safety help over the top. Moore comes flying in to covering Allen on his shallow crossing route. Rahim leaves open a big void for Rivers throw to Gates as Carter lets him gets deep. Talib lets Allen go on his crossing route which forced Moore to come up. Talib played it like a zone while Moore played it like man - the rest of the DBs also seem to have played man. Someone messed up, but you have to wonder why Moore would worry about a crossing route 3 yards from the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 20.
Orange Crushing it
The Orange Crush defense in the late 70s was elite at stopping the run. As I mentioned last week, our run D has reached that level of dominance against AZ, NY and SF. The SD game was a continuation of this. If you remove the stat-padding 23 yard carry by Oliver at the end of the game against the prevent look, the Chargers were held to 38 yards on 14 carries. Most of that came from Rivers 17-yard scramble in the 4th quarter. The other 13 runs on the day gained the Chargers 21 yards - 1.6 yards per carry. Remember that the Chargers ran for 170 yards on us when they beat us at home last season. They tried running pretty much every direction against us (except around RE)and had limited or no success in every case (leaving out the 23 yard garbage time run)
LE - 1 for 3
LT - 3 for 7
LG - 1 for 1
C - 7 for 33 (17 from Rivers' scramble)
RG - 1 for -1
RT - 1 for -5
They only ran right twice against us and they lost 6 yards on those two runs. It was pretty obvious that we were not going to let Oliver beat us. He finished the game with 13 carries for 36 yards and 8 catches for 27 yards, but 23 of his rushing yards came in garbage time against prevent, and 22 of his receiving yards came on one play. The rest of his 19 touches in the game resulted in 18 total yards. At one point he had something like 12 total touches for -2 total yards. His first 5 catches resulted in gains of -3, -2, 0, -5 and -2 yards - 5 catches for a total of -12 yards.
When the Chargers tried to run the ball on first down (which they had done on 57% of their 1st downs so far this season), the gained a grand total of 40 yards on 9 carries (4.4 ypc) which actually looks good until you realize that 23 of those yards came on the final run vs prevent. Their other 8 first down runs gained 17 yards (2.1 ypc) which is on par with our first down run stuffage from the last three games.
As a defense over the past 4 games have are the rushing totals that we have allowed 37, 31, 62, 61 yards. That's 67 carries for 191 yards (2.9 ypc) over the past 4 games. That's equivalent to the stretch that the 77 Broncos had