Amid all the disappointment and fallout from Denver’s first shutout loss in 25 years, an unprecedented defensive series went largely unheralded.
On the Broncos opening series, AJ Derby fumbled the ball, giving the Chargers favorable field position. After a big play by Hunter Henry and a pass interference call, the Broncos defense found themselves backed up on the one yard line with the Chargers at 1st and Goal.
This is an area where running back, Melvin Gordon, has made a living over the past two seasons. Over the last 23 games, Gordon has scored 19 touchdowns. All of them have come within the opponent’s 20 yard line.
Furthermore, Gordon had scored 11 touchdowns on his last 19 attempts inside an opponents 5 yard line heading into the game against Denver. Think about that for a second. More than 1 out of every 2 hand offs Melvin Gordon receives inside the 5 yard line end in a touchdown, and Denver shut down four in a row.
Denver’s herculean goal line effort is rivaled only by the T.C. Williams Titans, the 300 Spartans, and Gandalf.
1st and Goal
The first run, the Chargers try a quick power play off the left side targeting the C-gap off the left tackle. The left tackle will down block Gotsis while the left guard is going to pull around to lead the way for Gordon, along with the fullback.
The Chargers go heavy personnel with 3 TEs and a FB. Denver is in a heavy front with Gotsis, Shelby Harris, Peko, and Wolfe as down linemen, Barrett, Von, Marshall and Davis as linebackers, and Stewart, Simmons and Parks at safety. No corners are even on the field.
Okung gets a nice block on Gotsis and the left guard has a pretty clear run at Marshall or Parks.
The play is going pretty well for the Chargers at this point. You have pretty large opening in the C-gap, the left guard can clear out Parks while the fullback takes Marshall. But keep an eye on Shaq Barrett.
Here’s the key to the whole play, that will never make it on a stat sheet. Barrett is dominating his tight end (circled above) so the pulling guard diverts his attention to help on Barrett, otherwise Barrett would blow this play up.
This leaves Parks with a unblocked path to the ball carrier, and he makes a beautiful hit in the hole, stopping Gordon in his tracks.
Melvin Gordon is listed at 207 lbs, and runs over people like he’s 230. Parks is listed at 195. That’s a matchup that should favor the running back every time.
Not this time.
Davis and Marshall do a nice job fighting through traffic to help clean up. But this whole play was made possible by Shaq Barrett being a monster to block. This also ensured that Gordon couldn’t bounce it outside.
2nd and Goal
This play was, again, all Shaq Barrett, and it will show up on the stat sheet.
The Chargers are again trying the left C-gap (likely avoiding running to Von Miller’s side), and this time will combo block Gotsis with Okung climbing to the second level to take out Marshall once the double team is secure.
Okung has Marshall squared up, and Davis is too far backside to make a play.
All the fullback has to do is kick Parks out of the hole and Gordon will walk in for a score. Then Shaq Barrett happens.
He tosses his blocker like a rag doll, stays balanced, and wraps up Gordon in the backfield.
3rd and Goal
This one, the defense got a little help from their old buddy, Michael Schofield.
The Chargers try one straight up the middle with Schofield pulling around to lead the way. The right guard down blocks Wolfe, and the tight end cuts Von Miller.
Good play here by Shelby Harris torpedoing Okung and just clogging up the running lanes. At this point Marshall and Davis are converging on the ball and LA has two blockers to handle one each. The fullback can take Marshall with Schofield blocking Davis.
However, Schofield targets Marshall instead of Davis, and so does the fullback. So you have two players blocking Marshall and no one blocking Davis, who comes up and makes another great stop in the hole.
4th and Goal
This one is my favorite. There are three players to watch on this play circled below: Derek Wolfe, Todd Davis, and Will Parks. However, before that, this play was made possible by Shaq Barrett’s run stopping ability from the previous plays.
The Chargers got tired of Barrett whipping up on a tight end, so they put in an extra lineman just to block him. This has a ripple effect on the defense, because now Will Parks doesn’t have to wait and read to see if his tight end might turn for a play action pass.
He can immediately crash down on the play from the start; which he does, and eventually makes the tackle.
Now, watch Derek Wolfe. The Chargers are going to try to cut him with the right tackle (Schofield) while his man, the right guard, pulls around and leads up the left side C-gap.
Wolfe, however, defends the cut and keeps his eyes on the pulling lineman, following him down the line to the hole. Now you have Todd Davis, Brandon Marshall, AND Derek Wolfe taking on the pulling guard and the fullback in the hole.
They create a wall for Gordon to run into, while Will Parks comes from behind and takes out his feet.
Gordon attempts a jump over the pile, but cannot get force or drive he needs to keep churning with Parks taking out his foot.
Gordon winds up well short of the line with Derek Wolfe and Todd Davis on top of him.
I know the offense is giving fans zero reason to be excited or hopeful, but we are witnessing another historically good defense, and they deserve some praise for what would have been the defining sequence of the game, had we won.