Welcome to the Week 9 installment of "Repeating Business". I will discuss the San Diego game and take a look at the Sunday night battle in the "Black Hole" against the "nation".
San Diego - The Chargers came into Denver riding a two game win streak and looking to sweep Denver for the first time since 2010. There were some changes to the line-up thanks to injuries to Aqib Talib and Brandon Marshall, but DeMarcus Ware returned to playing. Offensively, the rushing burden was placed on the shoulders of rookie Devontae Booker thanks to C.J. Anderson going down with the knee injury.
The game started with the offense getting the ball first. Trevor Siemian started off throwing short passes with a highlight being the pass to Jordan Taylor. Sunshine took the ball 35 yards to the SD 37. Unfortunately, the Broncos stalled out on the 10 and had to settle for a Brandon McManus FG to take the lead 3-0. The lead didn't last long after the Chargers took the ball 75 yards for a TD. That drive was highlighted by a massive blown coverage that allowed the FB to go 53 yards. On the play, the Chargers motioned left and the FB snuck out of the backfield to the right. The defender failed to stay home and the play went way long. Three plays later the ageless Antonio Gates caught the pass to take the lead 7-3. The rest of the first quarter and part of the second quarter had the teams exchange a total of SEVEN punts with most of those being 3-and-outs.
On the next Charger possession, the Broncos had an interesting series. The first play was a Von Miller coverage sack, then Melvin Gordon was stopped for a sort gain. Then Ware struck by forcing a fumble to Philip Rivers. The ball bounced forward and Corey Nelson ran to the SD 22. It looked like the Broncos had a great chance to take advantage, but the play was reviewed and changed to an incomplete pass. San Diego punted instead, but got the ball back thanks to a roughing call. The punter was contacted and he went off the field limping, but was laughing on the sideline. Fortunately, the Chargers OL was generous in netting two false starts to back them up to their own 46. On the next play, the "No Fly Zone" struck. Rivers fired a pass that bounced up in the air and into the hands of Bradley Roby. Roby took the ball up the sideline for a 49 yard pick six to take a 10-7 lead. Sadly, the play came at a heavy cost as Wade Phillips was laying on the sideline thanks to a collision with Gordon on the sideline. Wade was strapped to a backboard and hauled away to the hospital. With the defense's commander out, the job was given to Reggie Herring to call the rest of the game. Thankfully Phillips was not seriously injured and will be back to work this week.
With Wade out, the defense was not phased by forcing another 3 and out after the pick. The offense moved the ball to the SD 7 thanks to a deep ball to a stretched out Emmanuel Sanders. Unfortunately, Russell Okung allowed a blindside sack that forced a fumble to kill the scoring chance. San Diego then moved to the Denver 27, but missed the FG. The Broncos then moved the ball to the SD 46, but stalled out on downs. Rivers was sacked to end the first half with Denver leading 10-7.
The Chargers got the ball to start the half and Rivers was being generous. On the first drive, Darian Stewart snagged a pick and took it to the SD 10. Booker ran the ball twice and scored to make the game 17-7. Rivers did it again by tossing a pick to T.J. Ward. Ward took the ball to the SD 7 to set up another chance. Then disaster happened. Booker lost four yards on the carry and then caught a pass without securing the ball. He then fumbled the ball at the SD 2 to blow another scoring chance. With 98 yards from allowing a score and a top ranked defense, you would expect that they would not allow anything right? Wrong! San Diego drove the ball thanks to Gordon's rushing including a 12 yard run from their own 2 on first down and a series of passes that went for first downs. On 3rd and 10 from the Denver 14, Rivers fired a missile that was slightly tipped by Lorenzo Doss and still was caught by Travis Benjamin for a TD. The Chargers failed on the PAT thanks to Shaq Barrett blocking the try.
With the score at 17-13, the offense came alive. With short passes and a mix of rushes, the Broncos scored a TD thanks to a one yard rush by Juwan Thompson. McManus knocked in the kick to make it 24-13. The defense then forced another punt to get the ball back, but Jordan Norwood failed to field the punt and allowing the ball to get to the Denver 2. The offense almost allowed a safety thanks to a penalty, but the refs called it outside of the end zone. Demaryius Thomas then snagged a catch to get a first down to get some space. Two plays later, disaster struck again. Siemian dropped back to pass only to see Norwood have the pass bounce off his hands into the arms of Casey Hayward. Hayward took the ball back for a pick six to cut into the lead. The defense denied the 2 and the score became 24-19. Denver then responded with a deep pass to Virgil Green for 31 yards and then another to Thomas for 40 to get to the SD 2. The Broncos still could do nothing with the gain and had to settle for a FG to make it 27-19.
The next two series then became harrowing for the home team. First off the Chargers moved the ball at will, getting to the Broncos 2. The defense stiffened up and denied Rivers on four tries. The offense only got the ball moved one yard and stalled on their own 3. With 2:19 left, Riley Dixon made the biggest punt of his young career. Dixon blasted the ball 68 yards and completely flipped the field. Even more impressive was the fact the coverage team only allowed a four yard return. The Chargers had one more chance, but the defense shut them down again on downs. The offense knelt the ball twice and secured the win 27-19.
As for impressions of the game, this game should have been a blowout. They were inside the 10 six different times coming away with two FGs, two TDs and two fumbles with one of them leading to the 98 yard TD drive to tighten the game. The OL was not good at all with giving up a sack that led to a fumble and a mere 57 yards rushing on 23 tries. Booker had to earn every inch on the ground because he was getting hit at the LOS. His lack of securing the ball on the pass inside the 5 was crushing. Siemian was up and down with his play and he had little time to get the ball out most of the time. The defense gave up a lot of yards to Gordon and they gave up a lot of overall yards. Fortunately, they made plays when needed and hit Rivers 17 times and with four sacks. Roby's pick six was the big momentum shift early and it set the tone the rest of the game. Special Teams were up and down. The highlights were McManus being "money" and Dixon's 68 yarder to help secure the game. Norwood on the other hand was awful with his lack of fielding and his lack of receiving caused the Charger pick six. Fortunately, the game was a win and we will have to hope that the Broncos clean up the sloppy play quick or there could be more losses to face down the road. At the halfway point, Denver is 6-2 and in good position in the AFC West. Now that the review is over, we get to take a look at a hated and familiar foe......
Oakland - Denver goes into the "Black Hole" on a prime time Sunday night game with the 6-2 Raiders. Yes, the 6-2 Raiders. Oakland has been winning most of their games by a TD or less and have been down to the wire. They are coming off an absurd 30-24 overtime win against the Buccaneers where Derek Carr threw over 500 yards and the team had a record 23 flags for 200 yards. They got lucky at the end of the game thanks to a flag on the Bucs on a fourth down incompletion. If the flag was not tossed, Oakland loses. In the off-season, the talk was about the Raider defense and how they are better than the Broncos. Well, not necessarily because they have given up 203 points compared to scoring 215. Their passing offense is more fearsome with Carr throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the outside with TEs Walford and Rivera in the middle. Their rushing attack is not as scary, but they have the ability to get some yards on the ground.
For the Broncos to grab a win in the asylum, they have to play a clean game and not get baited into cheap flags. We all know how the Raiders play and how big this game will be so keeping composure will be crucial. The run D will need to stuff Murray and the secondary will need to do some heavy lifting. Carr will throw at will, but he only has three picks this season. Keeping him uncomfortable will go a long way for success. On offense, the OL has to account for Khalil Mack and everywhere he lines up. We all remember his one-man wrecking that cost the Broncos a home win last season. With the RBs young and short handed, this could be a challenge. Siemian will have to find ways to get the ball down the field since Oakland will likely sit on the short routes. As of now, there is a chance for rain so that could also factor in the play. Don't expect a blowout and figure on a tight game.
Final Thought - I just wanted to apologize for not getting out a "Repeating Business" posting last week. I had a personal situation that required a ton of my attention. I sincerely hope that this one makes up for it. Well it's time to get amped up for Raider Week and GO BRONCOS!