The Denver Broncos held on for a wild 24-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football. In a game that the Broncos nearly completely controlled until the start of the fourth quarter, it all came down to an improbable block field goal.
It’s easy to forget how well the Broncos played through those first three quarters due to that near fourth quarter collapse, but they really did. There were so many more positives than negatives from this game and there were plenty of game balls to go around.
Many of us have been praising Shelby Harris for a few weeks now. It is really impressive to me to see a guy who was at the back of the depth chart continue to make plays game after game especially when this one counted. Harris contributed on both the defense with a very nice pass rush for a QB hit as well as 2 assisted tackles. But the reason he's my player of the game was on the last meaningful play of the game where he tipped the game tying field goal which secured the victory for the Broncos. It was a big time moment and a big time play. Well done, Shelby. You did Broncos Country proud! - Sadaraine
Finishing 17/28 for 219 yards with 3 total touchdowns, Siemian put any worries over the quarterback situation heading into the season to rest with this aggressive down the field throws and good decisions inside the red zone.
All signs point towards Siemian taking a solid step forward in his sophomore season as a starter. My three favorite plays from Siemian in this game was the down the field throw to Virgil Green when the Broncos desperately needed a play, the deep sideline throw to Demaryius Thomas where skillfully looked the safety off and made the big time throw. The last one was how badly he embarrassed Joey Bosa here. - Tim Lynch
What did you think was going to happen? The Broncos are down to their third and fourth string at defensive end, they have their third-string outside linebacker from last season starting in place of Shane Ray and of course the Los Angeles Chargers are going to run right at that gaping hole in Denver's defense. Well, Denver rang the bell. Adam Gotsis had five individual tackles in place of Derek Wolfe and the injured Jared Crick. Shelby Harris, Crick's other backup saved the game from overtime, but it was Shaquil Barrett that stole the show. Barrett made the box score stat line exactly once, with a sack on 1st & 10 with 10:27 left in the 3rd quarter. However, it was his coverage and consistent pressure that allowed the Broncos to fight back against the Chargers' surge. Barrett had six pressures on 27 passing snaps and gave up zero catches. - Ian Henson
Shaquil Barrett started the season off on pic.twitter.com/DyK5oXH20j— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 12, 2017
Many people felt that we not only reached last season to draft Adam Gotsis in the second round, but they also felt that Gotsis was a total bust (forgetting that he tore his ACL in his final season in college). Now that Adam has had a chance to fully recover from the ACL tear and has also had two full years to work with Bill Kollar, we are starting to see why we used a second round pick on him. He was a beast last night. Of our down lineman, he was comparable to Derek Wolfe in his ability to push the pocket (none of the down lineman were very good last night at getting pressure), but where he really shined last night was in the run game. After that first run of 21 yards, the Chargers ran the ball 12 more times on first down for 29 yards. So while their average on first down runs was decent (3.84), after that first run they averaged 2.41 ypc and Gotsis was a big reason for that. He finished the game with 5 tackles (all unassisted) and showed that he can be a force in the run game - a force that might allow this defense to be as effective at stopping the run as the 2015 defense was. Gotsis only saw 11 runs but he was a force, collecting 4 run stops. His 36.4% run stop percentage was the highest among all interior defenders according to PFF. - Joe Mahoney
When you play receiver behind guys like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it's understandably difficult to look good by comparison. It's even harder when you commit a season-changing drop in the end zone, like Bennie Fowler did last year. But yesterday was a new day, and Fowler was back with new and improved chemistry with quarterback Trevor Siemian. He was one of Siemian's go-to guys in the end zone, catching both of the Broncos' receiving touchdowns on the night. The first TD catch was especially impressive: a leaping grab at the back of the endzone after Joey Bosa's early jump gave the Broncos a free play. Here's hoping we keep seeing more of this Bennie. - Taylor Kothe
The Broncos have had two types of punt returners in recent years: bad and terrible. Ranging from the terrible Jordan Norwood to the exciting but far too risky and unreliable Trindon Holliday, punt returner has been a weakness for the Broncos' special teams unit for most of this decade. But it looks like Isaiah McKenzie just changed all that. The sample size is small, but in his three punt returns McKenzie was electric. He showed off serious agility and shiftiness on the way to a momentum-setting 31 yard return that set the Broncos up with great field position on their way to the lead and the win. But perhaps most importantly: he fielded the ball cleanly and then held on to it. Unlike returners of the past, when that ball plummeted toward McKenzie's waiting hands it brought excitement rather than stress. That's a game ball worthy change. - Taylor Kothe
It wasn't a perfect night for the rookie first round pick, but Garrett Bolles played admirably given the circumstances. In his first ever NFL start against on of the best pass rushing tandems in the NFL, he battled and for the most part, held Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram at bay. - Jeff Essary
Garret Bolles allowed just two pressures, including one sack, on 37 pass block snaps vs. the Chargers.— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) September 12, 2017
It’s truly amazing what happens when a coach fits their system to their players as opposed to forcing the players to fit their system. It’s a wild concept, right? That’s what McCoy brings to the Broncos offense and we saw that play out in the win over the Chargers. The other huge aspect that McCoy brings is a balanced offensive attack. Denver hasn’t had that in an offense since he left after the 2012 season to become the Chargers head coach. As I said in the five things we learned, McCoy did in one game what the Broncos have been looking for since he left. McCoy needs to finish off opponents and remain aggressive in his playcalls, but it is Week One. Even coaches need moments to grow and learn. But after one week, McCoy will make a huge difference for the Broncos as the offensive coordinator. - Ian St. Clair
Broncos fans have been waiting for Cody Latimer to actually earn his spot on this team, and last night was pretty darn close. With a 36-yard kick return, a huge tackle on Travis Benjamin for a three-yard loss on a punt and then a key block to help Isaiah McKenzie spring for a beautiful 41-yard punt return, Latimer proved his special teams work is worth the roster spot. It'd be nice to see Latimer contribute more as a wide receiver, but given the depth already there and the need for good ST, it'll be even better to have a proven gunner and a special teams ace to rely on. (H/T to Brock Olivo too for a unit that produced three game balls in this win!) - Laurie Lattimer-Volkmann