It's another HUGE game this week as the Denver Broncos head to the West Coast to take on the San Diego Chargers for the second time this season, and our Ultimate Fan ADanishMan is predicting a similar result this time around - a Broncos domination - provided they keep the pressure on Philip Rivers and show the Chargers' defense just how many offensive weapons this Broncos team has.
DENVER v. SAN DIEGO
MHR - Three takeaways from the win over the Buffalo Bills?
- Our run game is still dominant. The stats from Sunday might lead you to believe otherwise, but C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson were running against loaded boxes and one of the better defensive fronts that Denver has faced this season. Three goal-line TDs against them was no small feat.
- Our defense can still ball out and put games away early. (The keyword there was "early." As we've seen before, JDR went into some soft zone calls once Denver had built a lead.)
- (And this is the one everyone is talking about). Peyton Manning seems to be in a funk. Whether it's simply that he's out of rhythm due to the emergence of a legitimate run game or something more sinister is unknown.
MHR - How is your confidence in Peyton Manning? He hasn't been particularly sharp the past two games but has been able to manage the offense quite well. Is there any reason to be concerned?
ADanishMan: I was worried in the waning minutes of the Bills game when I realized that Manning's "games with a TD pass" streak was about to end. A trivial concern, I know, but this is Peyton Freakin' Manning we're talking about. He's thrown touchdowns against some darn tough defenses this season, and his numerous overthrows/interceptions/etc over the last few games are, understandably, cause for concern. But in those same final minutes against Buffalo, I realized that this is still Peyton Freakin' Manning, and he is still more than capable of leading this team to places a Mile High and then some.
TL;DR -- My confidence isn't wavering yet.
MHR - The Broncos offensive line kept the top-rated Buffalo Bills' pass-rushers from ever getting to Manning, which was quite a feat for our front 5. Do you believe this O-line is a Super Bowl-contending unit?
ADanishMan: Of course. Through week 14, the Broncos O-line has allowed only 13 sacks. This is particularly impressive when you take into consideration that we have played against defenses such as Buffalo, Miami, Kansas City, and Seattle, the latter of whom absolutely abused our O-line in that one game back in February.
The pass protection didn't improve as drastically as the run blocking did once the media lit a metaphorical fire underneath the big guys up front, but the new spark in the O-line was enough to keep Buffalo's vaunted front seven from laying a hand on No. 18. This is a unit that has finally gelled after the worrisome experimenting that took place a few weeks ago, and, should current trends continue, be able to push and shove our offense through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl.
MHR - The Broncos defense created some big plays with sacks and turnovers. What do you think its biggest strengths are - and where are its biggest weaknesses?
ADanishMan: I could rave about my joy with the secondary this season, but its job is improved significantly by the play of the front seven. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are everything I had hoped for in a pass-rushing duo with 23 combined sacks on the year. Pot Roast, Derek Wolfe and Co. help to create middle pressure and stuff the run, the latter of which is one of the greater strengths of this unit.
Of course, pressure leads to hurried throws, which leads to interceptions and batted passes, which our secondary has taken advantage of. Chris Harris, Jr. is making his bid for the best cornerback in football, while Bradley Roby is having himself a decent rookie campaign.
Conversely, the only real weaknesses I can pick out with this defense are also in the secondary. Neither Aqib Talib norT.J. Ward has lived up to his lofty preseason billings, though that isn't to say they haven't been without their moments. Similarly, Roby has had a few games where he has been burned by opposing receivers and given up far too many yards after the catch. He is a rookie, however, an excuse neither Talib nor Ward has at his disposal.
MHR - The Broncos are using three different kickers to basically do the job of two, but in the Bills game we (barely) hit a 50-yard field goal and had touchbacks on our kickoffs. Do you like this use of our 53-man roster? Is it the long-term answer?
ADanishMan: In short, no. I'm comfortable with the three kickers for now, since they get the job done and need to have stability heading into the playoffs, but something's gotta give come contract season. I'm sure I speak for many when I say I'd like to see McManus give punting a shot, as he'd be a much cheaper option than Colquitt. Then again, maybe McManus evolves into a kicker that is better at hitting the empty space between the uprights instead of the poles themselves.
Either way you slice it, there's not enough money to keep three kickers. Not when you're trying to re-sign impending free agents such as Demaryius Thomas and Chris Harris, Jr.
John Fox reacting just like us to Barth's 50-yard FG https://t.co/GfB1JB4j6X— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) December 7, 2014
MHR - If you are Jack Del Rio this week, what is your game plan against the Chargers?
ADanishMan: If I'm JDR, I'd focus on shutting down the Chargers' running game. Ryan Mathews wasn't in the lineup when these teams met back in week 8 and isn't to be overlooked.
From there, our rushers can pin their ears back and chase Rivers around. I'd even like to see some more exotic blitzes on Rivers, who, with any luck, will be so sidetracked with trying to avoid the jaws of the guys up front that he tosses a few into the maw of our secondary. Rivers is still the best weapon that San Diego has, so he needs to be kept honest by both our rushers and our backs in coverage.
Also, I'm putting a linebacker on Gates with safety help over the top. I think between Marshall/Trevathan and, say, T.J. Ward, we should be able to keep him in check.
Addendum: DO NOT LET OFF THE GAS, DEL RIO.
A 21-point lead became a 7-point one because JDR started calling that silly soft zone/prevent type stuff that has gotten us into trouble in the past. This is a hungry Chargers team that is playing at home for its playoff life. There's no room for playing nice.
MHR - Now turn to the offense. If you are Adam Gase, what is your game plan? How important will it be for Peyton to throw the long ball accurately against our AFC West foes?
ADanishMan: If I'm Gase, I'm opening up the playbook early and often, the reasons for which are twofold.
First, the passing game needs to be re-established. Manning needs to get into his groove early for the passing game to be effective, and now that teams are starting to take notice of our newly dominant rushing attack, Manning should be able to get some good one-on-one matchups.
The second reason is because, as mentioned above, this is a hungry Chargers team on its own turf. There's no room for "run-run-pass" or otherwise predictable play-calling. It will take a good balance of the pass and the run to beat this team, or any team in the postseason, really.
MHR - In our final three games, we go on the road two weeks in a row before a final home game. What are the key things this team needs to be doing for these final games to ensure success in the postseason?
ADanishMan: Manning needs to find his groove, the run game needs to continue its dominance, and JDR needs to keep the defense firing for a whole game.
Do those three things, and the future will be looking much brighter.
MHR - Neither the Chargers nor Patriots offense played particularly well in their game Sunday night. What clues should that give the Broncos for playing the Chargers next weekend?
ADanishMan: Just keep the defense rolling. Pressure Rivers, play their receivers close, and force turnovers. That said, I'm sure the Chargers offense will be looking to score much more than 14 points, which makes a solid defensive performance that much more critical.
- Full stat line for Peyton Manning? 20/31 285 yards 2 TDs 1 INT
- Number of yards total by the Broncos running backs? 135
- Which wide receiver will have the most yards? Emmanuel Sanders, provided Peyton gets back on his A-game and stops with the overthrows
- Number of sacks on Philip Rivers? 3
- Number of sacks on Manning? 0 (If the Bills couldn't do it... well, good luck, San Diego.)
- Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan tie with 7 apiece
- Broncos player with the most INTs? Chris Harris, Jr. (1)
- Number of penalties/yards on the Broncos? 5 penalties, 45 yards
- Final Score? 34-21 Broncos
Favorite team to watch the Broncos play?
Coincidentally, the Chargers. My disdain for Philip Rivers as an emotional being runs deep, and they're usually exciting games, as opposed to certain other division rivals.
Team you most hate for the Broncos to lose to?
The Patriots. Darth Belichick has created a great evil in the East, and they seem to be our biggest competition in the AFC. Plus, as with Rivers, I have a deep loathing for Tom Brady. Sore loser, abysmal winner.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster?
Von Miller. That guy has brought a whole new level of nasty to our defense ever since he was drafted. When he's not on the field, he is sorely missed (See most of the 2013 season to know what I'm talking about). Off the field, he has cleaned up his once-notorious act, a lesson that many young players in the league can learn from. (Plus, the Funky Von Sack Dance is just too good.)
Favorite Broncos player of all time?
I wish I could say Elway or Terrell Davis, but as (insofar as I know) the youngest member of this site, I was not old enough to appreciate them in their day. Thus, I've gotta say that Champ Bailey takes the cake for me. Classy guy who spoke softly and carried the biggest of sticks.
His infamous pick in the playoff game against the Patriots in 2006 is one of my earliest Broncos memories.
(*editor's note: If your favorite of all time is Champ Bailey, you're doing just fine)
Favorite thing to eat during a game?
I don't really eat during the game. I'm usually too engrossed in watching/cheering/screaming at the television to focus on food.
Favorite Game-Day ritual?
Recently I've taken to drinking Orange CrushTM out a Broncos cup during the game. It's worked well so far... I think I'll keep it up.
What is your favorite Game-Day attire?
My Demaryius Thomas jersey over a blue long sleeve, jeans, and a throwback Broncos cap that I claimed from my old man's closet last season and managed to smuggle off to college with me.
Most embarrassing-to-admit superstitious behavior regarding Broncos on Game Day?
If Denver isn't winning at halftime, I usually go switch hats to a Broncos beanie and snag a refill on the Orange Crush. Guess it's not really embarrassing, but it is what it is.
Best Broncos game ever played (or if you want something different than the last writers...favorite come-from-behind win?)
Again, I'm only 19. I'm not really allowed to say Super Bowl XXXII or something of that caliber. I have to say that my favorite Broncos game that I've ever watched is *takes cover under desk* the 2011 Wild Card game against the Steelers. It was an improbable overtime win against a tough team in a game that we really had no business participating in. (It also really introduced me to Demariyus Thomas, so that definitely adds to it.)
(*editor's note: you could do much worse than that game and not too much better...good choice!)
Who makes your "Hall of Fame" Broncos team?
*sigh...I was dreading this question. Again with the whole "being too young to have a valid opinion" thing. For what it's worth, I definitely want Elway, TD, Champ, and Elam on the team.