The Denver Broncos had an odd, but satisfying 27-19 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. As frustrating as the offense was, they came up big when it mattered and despite giving up a 98 yard touchdown drive the defense also came up big when it mattered.
Here are five things we learned about this Broncos team in that win.
1. Andy Janovich is a requirement for the run game
The Broncos had a pathetic 57 yards rushing on 25 rushing plays for a laughable 2.9 yards per rush. This happened, because Andy Janovich tried to play through an injury and the club on his hand clearly affected that. It is also becoming clear that this offense must have him healthy on the field to succeed running the football.
“I have to go figure it out, I know that,” head coach Gary Kubiak said of the failures from the running game on Sunday. “We came out throwing, but we did last week, too. It’s when you balance yourself up and all of a sudden I think we were four runs and 16 passes and just totally out of whack in what we were trying to do. I have to go take a look. I know [FB] Andy [Janovich] played with a club today. I have to go see if that was a factor. We have to go put all those things together and find out.”
Don’t let the score fool you. The offense had just four drives that netted 20 or more yards, with five three and outs.
Without any threat of a running game, this offense will not do much. Trevor Siemian is what Trevor Siemian is. He cannot consistently run this offense successfully if the run game is completely absent. Fortunately for all of us, that defense is really good.
2. The Broncos will continue to win games because of their defense
The Chargers out gained the Broncos by nearly 50 yards, including 123 rushing yards. The difference came from the timely turnovers and stops from the Broncos defense. They gave up touchdown drives of 85 yards and 98 yards, but also had three interceptions and a goal line stand. You can thank Lorenzo Doss for that goal line stand.
They were the difference makers in this game.
When Bradley Roby took this interception off a tipped pass all the way back 52-yards for the touchdown, it was a huge momentum shift.
The bigger momentum shift was the inspired play from the defense after Wade Phillips was carted off the field after being hit hard by a Chargers player.
In the second half, the Broncos nearly got two more pick sixes, one each from Darian Stewart an T.J. Ward. Both were returned down inside the 10 yard line. The offense could only capitalize on one of those, however, while the other ultimately led to a breakdown on defense and a critical 98 yard touchdown drive to keep San Diego in the game.
The Chargers had thirteen total drives, excluding a kneel down to end the first half. Of those drives, nine resulted in 18 yards or less of offense. Not a bad day at the office.
3. Welcome back, Virgil Green
The reason the Broncos won this game is because Siemian finally found Virgil Green in critical moments. With four catches for 55 yards with all of his catches coming during scoring drives.
That is significant.
“That was great,” Green said of getting more looks in this game. “I had fun running the routes out there, catching the ball and running after the catch. But I think a lot of the run game stuff helps some of that stuff. Trevor Siemian did a good job moving. The O-line did a good job pass blocking. I had a fun time tonight.”
His biggest catch came when momentum was swinging back to the Chargers. Siemian threw a perfect pass down the seam to Green for 31 yards.
The drive would result in a critical field goal that made it an 8-point game. A deficit the Chargers would be unable to overcome.
4. Riley Dixon is going to be so good
Riley Dixon came under fire last week for a perception that his kicks were short and not very good. Our own Joe Mahoney busted that myth thoroughly. Dixon’s strength is consistency and hangtime, but against the Chargers he was clutch.
After another stalled three and out from the Broncos offense, this time from their own two-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Dixon booted an amazing 68-yard punt from the back of his own end zone.
Not only was it 68 yards, the hangtime was so impressive that it was also nearly unreturnable.
The flipped field position gave the Broncos defense some room to work with and they promptly shut Phillip Rivers down. Game over.
5. This team won’t ever be “world beaters” in 2016
What I mean by that is simple. They’ll win close games or maybe pull away at the very end. There won’t be any blowouts unless the opponent completely craps the bed.
This isn’t the first time this team has had opportunities to run away with a game only to find a way to let their opponent keep it close.
The good news is that teams have tremendous character when they believe they can win any game when its close. It’s that confidence that will continue to lead to more wins than losses for the Broncos.
What are your takeaways from this last game?