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Instant reactions: Denver's D vanquishes San Diego

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The Denver Broncos rolled into Qualcomm Stadium and defeated the San Diego Chargers 17-3 to secure their tenth win of the season.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos started the game off hot with an opening score drive against the San Diego Chargers, but their offense hovered in mediocrity the rest of the game. Alas, the defense forced several key turnovers and scored some points of their own in order to help secure the teams tenth win of the season.

At the end of the day, a win is a win and the Broncos are now one step closer to a playoff birth. With New England's loss against Philadelphia, the Broncos are currently one of the top two seeds in the AFC and have the opportunity to secure a first round bye if they take care of business in the last five games of the season. Every game matters, but have no doubts that their match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks from now will be one of epic proportions.

Here are my observations from today's game against the Chargers:

Offense

  • Brock Osweiler wasn't spectacular in his third outing leading the Broncos offense, but he was efficient enough to get the job done. Osweiler went 16 of 26 for 166 yards with a touchdown and interception.  Despite his overall effectiveness, it was apparent that the schematic adjustments the Chargers defense employed after the first drive caused some indecisiveness from Osweiler, who was by in large limited to short safety valve throws for the majority of the game.

    Osweiler will need to improve his accuracy down the field, especially on intermediate routes and become more comfortable making additional reads to reach a higher level of play.  With each week that goes by, teams will be able to continue to game plan better against the fourth-year quarterback and his continued progression is a must for the Broncos if they want to secure a first-round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.
  • Overall, the offensive line did a good job of protecting Osweiler and showed some grit in their blocking as a unit on outside runs, but need to improve their performance on rushes on the interior. 

When San Diego got pressure, it was often on the right side or through the middle of the line.  Michael Schofield and Matthew Paradis continue to struggle in pass protection and unfortunately seem to lack the strength and technique at the point of attack necessary to succeed as long-term starters in the NFL.
  • Broncos running back C.J. Anderson did not see action in the second half of the game and was ruled out due to an ankle injury and was replaced by Juwan Thompson. The Broncos ran the ball 39 times against the Chargers for 134 yards.  The 3.4 yard per carry average isn't impressive, but it was good enough to wear down San Diego's defense and keep Philip Rivers on the sideline.
  • It wasn't a huge game for Demaryius Thomas, but he performed much better this week than he did against the New England.  Thomas ended the game with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown score.

Defense

  • Outside of a few break downs in coverage against tight ends and running backs, the Broncos defense was a force to be reckoned with the whole game.  They limited Philip Rivers to only 202 yards passing and only gave up 93 yards on the ground with a net of 273 yards allowed for the game.  With only a field goal registered against them, you couldn't have asked for much more than what they provided today. 

    As a unit, they were spectacular — combining for four sacks and three turnovers and also added a score. Their play today was extremely encouraging, especially with DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Sylvester Williams all out due to injury.  Just imagine how good they could have been with them on the field today.
  • Von Miller continued his hot streak with his fourth consecutive game with at least one sack. He took down Rivers twice today and also registered a forced fumble and recovery in the third quarter.
  • Danny Trevathan’s pick-6 on Philip Rivers was the fifth interception the Broncos defense has returned for a touchdown this season.  A sixth could have came late in the second quarter when Chris Harris, Jr. intercepted Rivers, but the play was nullified with a questionable pass interference call.
  • Vance Walker and Darius Kilgo rotated at nose tackle for the Broncos with Sylvester Williams out and had mixed results.  At times they were able to get some pressure with the pass rush, but seemed to struggle against the interior of the Chargers offensive line who routinely was able to get a push in the running game.
  • A well-deserved shout out to Josh Bush, who was brought back to the team with T.J. Ward being sidelined came up with with a forced fumble on Chargers wide receiver Malcolm Floyd in the third quarter. Extended playing time might be in line for the Wake Forest product if David Bruton's injury suffered in the fourth quarter happens to be significant.

Special Teams

  • After starting off the season hot, Brandon McManus has missed two field goal attempts in the past two games and has not connected with an attempt longer than 35 yards since Denver’s win against Green Bay.
  • Britton Colquitt has received criticism for not playing up to his salary this season, but had several key punts that gave the Chargers hornedous field position during the game. Kudos to him on a much better performance today than what we have witnessed for a majority of the year.

Hart’s Quick Hits

  • Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett did an exceptional job covering Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders the entire game.  Sanders only caught three balls for 19 yards.  Verrett even came up with a jump ball interception in the third quarter on an Osweiler pass attempt to Sanders in the end zone.  He may not be a household name in the NFL yet, but Chargers fans know they have something special with the second year cornerback out of T.C.U.
  • The referees failed to call a helmet-to-helmet hit on Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram who went high on tight end Vernon Davis on the last play of the first half, which resulted in a concussion for Davis who was out the remained of the game. Had the correct call been made, the Broncos would have had an opportunity for an extra three points on a Brandon McManus field goal attempt.
  • Is it just me or does Head Coach Gary Kubiak seem to lack a killer instinct in the last two minutes of the first half when it comes to play calling?  There are some obvious limitations with Brock’s lack of experience, but I can’t think of many games this season where the Broncos put the pedal to the metal at the end of the half when they had the ball.
  • The calls at the end of the second half (along with the lack of clock management) were very poor examples of situational football and I do not feel like the team operated with a sense of urgency when they had the ability to put more points on the board. This is an aspect of the team I would like to see improved before the playoffs roll around.
  • Denver played a very disciplined game on offense and defense and only had three penalties for 18 yards.
  • The Broncos were 6/13 on third downs and the Chargers were 5/14.  Denver's third down defense has been one of their keys to success the entire season.
  • Stat of the Day: The Denver Broncos defense still has not surrendered a third quarter touchdown all season long.  Quite the impressive streak.

What are some of the key observations you witnessed during Denver's win against San Diego this afternoon? Share your thoughts in the comments section.