For the first time in 23 seasons, the Denver Broncos return to Los Angeles.
For the first time in 57 seasons, they do so to play the Los Angeles Chargers. In that lone game, on Dec. 10, 1960, at the LA Coliseum, the Broncos lost 41-33. Needless to say, Broncos Country will see history on Sunday. Whether that’s in a fond or forgetful manner, only time will tell.
What we do know is this is the second time the two AFC West rivals will smash helmets this season. Denver (3-2) escaped the season-opener against the Chargers (2-4) with a 24-21 win that sure seemed like it was headed to overtime. Thanks to a Shelby Harris blocked field goal, that didn’t happen. As is the custom in division and rivalry games, the first doesn’t mean squat and you can throw out the records.
Los Angeles: 14th in overall offense (345.2 yards), 31st in rushing (79), fourth in passing (262.2) and 23rd in points (19.3).
Denver: 12th in overall offense (355.4 yards), ninth in rushing (123.6), 14th in passing (231.8) and 16th in points (21.6).
Los Angeles: Tied for 18th in overall defense (338.5 yards), 32nd in rushing (152.5), Fourth in passing (186) and 16th in points (21.8).
Denver: First in overall defense (261.8 yards), Second in rushing (70.2), sixth in passing (191.6) and eighth in points (19.4).
Los Angeles enters Sunday’s game on a two-game winning streak, while the Broncos are 1-2 in their last three and on the heels of getting embarrassed and manhandled on national TV by the New York Giants. Will Denver answer the call and improve to 3-0 in the AFC West?
Here are the keys to the Broncos getting its three-game road trip started off with a much-needed win.
Trevor Siemian has to step up
In Denver’s last three games, Siemian has been awful. He’s 69-of-116 passing (59.5 percent) for 814 yards (271 per game) with two touchdowns and four interceptions. To put this another way: Siemian has thrown one less pick-six than touchdown passes.
In those three games, Denver has been atrocious in the red zone and on third down. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve been just as putrid in goal-to-go situations. In the last 12 quarters of football, Siemian and the Broncos have scored three touchdowns. That starts and finishes with the quarterback.
It’s no wonder Denver is 1-2 in those games, and if Derek Carr doesn’t get injured late in the Oakland Raiders game, the Broncos may very well be 0-3.
The time has come for Siemian to step up. No more excuses. No more whining about the offensive line, lack of a running game, receivers dropping passes, poor play calling, how his shoes were tied too tight, how he had the throwing glove on the wrong hand, how he’s been playing with left-handed footballs and how he heard a new Skittles jacket was being released.
As Adam Malnati and I said on the latest MHR Radio Podcast: Do. Your. Job.
Show this improvement we’ve heard so much about. Show in a must-win game the team can rely on the quarterback to get the job done. Show the most important position on the field has the shoulders to actually carry the team. - Ian St. Clair
Run the damn ball
Teams are stacking the box because they have no fear of Siemian. You know what? Fine. Run the damn ball anyway. Run it over and over again. For two yards. For three. Let Siemian throw on third downs. Run. Run. Pass. Run. Run. Pass. Fox ball on steroids. Airing it out in any game is a losing proposition. - Tim Lynch
Middle of the field
The biggest key to this game is the Broncos defense’s ability to cover the middle of the field: I.e. cover the tight ends and running backs. Hunter Henry is a great weapon for Philip Rivers, and so too is Melvin Gordon out of the backfield. It seems as if it's been 20 years since the Broncos have effectively shut down the middle of the field with regularity, so changing that trend starting this Sunday will be vital to going into Los Angeles and coming out with a victory. Shut down the middle of the field, and the rest will follow. - Pete Baron
Dominate the trenches
The key to the game is running the ball and stopping the run. But, honestly, the issue goes deeper. The coaching staff has to put together a viable game plan. The Chargers will look at the tape from the Giants game and devise a defensive scheme that forces Siemian to beat them. Can he do that? The last few weeks have pointed toward a gigantic no. - Adam Malnati
Denver brought in Mike McCoy because Gary Kubiak and Co. plainly sucked in this area. The Broncos let go of the greatest defensive coordinator in the NFL bar-none to promote a young guy with a bright future in Joe Woods. It is time for these two gentlemen to do their jobs. Teams are shutting down our offense with ease. Teams are attacking the middle of the field with tight ends and running backs week after week.
The coordinators need to be held accountable for the end product of their work week in and week out, which in my eyes amounts to a large, runny, steaming pile of cow defecation. - Sadaraine
Head coach Vance Joseph said after the Giants game that turnovers start with the quarterback. Siemian needs to protect the ball. Siemian had 10 interceptions last season, and already has six so far in 2017. That's not going to cut it.
This team does not play well from behind and has currently not proven capable of overcoming adversity or pulling out games when things haven't gone right, so the best hope of victory is to ensure as much as possible goes right. - Jeffrey Essary