The Denver Broncos headed on the road to face the Los Angeles Chargers this afternoon. One team has quietly been one of the most impressive in the National Football League with the other being an absolute disappointment to date. After jumping to an early first quarter lead, the Broncos struggled throughout the remainder of the game, but mounted an impressive fourth quarter comeback to defeat the Chargers 23-22. Here are five things we learned from today’s thrilling victory.
1. The Broncos’ offensive line deserves a lot of praise
Before I get into anything else, I just want to write a short tidbit about how impressive the Broncos’ offensive line was today. With three players starting at new positions, it was plausible to assume the offensive line was going to have some struggles against a strong Chargers’ defense. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and the offensive line did a great job in pass protection all game long and didn’t allow a single sack. Additionally, Elijah Wilkinson and Billy Turner performed quite well at offensive guard and were key contributors in boosting their running attack.
2. Phillip Lindsay continues to make case for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors
Just ten games into his career running back Phillip Lindsay is playing like a seasoned veteran. On a weekly basis he continues to display tremendous vision, patience and all-class speed to burn. While underutilized most of the afternoon, his effort against the Chargers is symbolic of a rookie campaign that merits Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration. He finished the game with 15 touches for 106 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Dare I say he is the most underrated offensive weapon in the league?
I’m not too sure how a collegiate player who had nearly 6,000 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns at the University of Colorado went undrafted, but I’m thankful he decided to join the Broncos despite them selecting two backs in the 2018 NFL Draft. In a season riddled with disappointments across the board, the play of Lindsay has been a continuous bright spot and provides a reason for optimism moving forward. It would be wise for the Broncos to invest free agent resources and multiple draft picks for their injury-plagued offensive line and run him and Royce Freeman as much as possible next season. Their young, dynamic rushing duo is the most promising and effective part of their offense, but for whatever reason, Bill Musgrave and the rest of coaching staff seem to be too stubborn to use them more effectively.
3. Vance Joseph still lacks a basic understanding of situational football
Halfway through the second quarter, the Broncos had the opportunity to kick a field goal and go up four points against the Chargers. After being stopped on two consecutive Royce Freeman runs, Vance Joseph opted to go again for it on fourth down instead. Unfortunately, Lindsay wasn’t able to convert on the run, though the questionable spot certainly could have been challenged and probably should have been.
When a team is on the road and desperate for the win, it’s the smart idea to just take the field goal instead of taking an unnecessary gamble early on. That would have been the right call to help aid in their pursuit of a much-needed win. He should have also issued a challenge on the Broncos’ two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. On a week to week basis, these poor decisions by Joseph have cost the team points and squandered the potential for victories.
I don’t mean to be overtly negative, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about a team whose head coach continuously fails on Football 101 endeavors. The Broncos’ late-game heroics helped salvage what could have been a staggering loss due to the woes mentioned above. Joseph should consider himself very lucky right now to say the least. The Broncos won in spite of him, not because of him.
I don't want to just sit here and bash coaches, but I've sat through Vance Joeseph's career and my goodness he is consistent in making the absolute wrong calls.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) November 18, 2018
Not taking points when he should and chasing them when he shouldn't.
4. The Broncos’ third down offense and defense was atrocious
Speaking of situational football, if there was any key area that the Chargers’ offense had struggled with to date their third down efficiency would be it. Entering today’s contest they were in the bottom-five league wide in respect to third down conversions converting just 34 percent of their attempts all season long. Until late in the third quarter, the Chargers had converted all eight of their third down attempts. They finished the game converting 60 percent of them — a season high for their franchise.
On the flip side, the Broncos’ offense struggled immensely on their third down attempts. They converted only 30 percent of them throughout the game. It is extraordinarily difficult to win football games when you can’t get off the field on third down or continue drives on offensively with conversions. However, the Broncos’ offense came together and made huge plays on third down in the fourth quarter when they needed to the most. Kudos to Case Keenum for making some big throws at the end on their game-winning drive.
5. Bradley Chubb continues to blossom in his rookie campaign
As I mentioned earlier, Lindsay is certainly in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. The same can be said about rookie outside linebacker Bradley Chubb with respect to his pursuit of the Defensive Rookie of the Year accolade. His sack of Philip Rivers at the end of the first half was his ninth on the season, bringing him within six sacks of the rookie record held by Jevon Kearse.
Chubb has become red-hot in recent weeks with 7.5 of his sacks coming in the past four games. He finished today’s effort with 7 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Without question, the tandem of Chubb and Von Miller moving forward will be formidable for years to come. I can only imagine how great those two could be if the Broncos were able to get a formidable rusher on the interior, but it just so happens the 2019 NFL Draft is ripe with defensive tackle talent that can provide that.
So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from today’s game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!