It was an incredible comeback win for the Denver Broncos. It was a comeback that never should have happened. Case Keenum’s final game winning drive was exciting, and filled Broncos Country with joy, but they never should have trailed the Los Angeles Chargers in the first place.
As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the MHR Radio Podcast, once again, we see that Vance Joseph and his staff have zero understanding of situational football. It isn’t that the team is unprepared, or untalented, or lacks desire. No, this team lacks a leader that can make the right decisions when the game is on the line.
It all started in the first half. After telling the world that he wanted his team to start faster, Vance Joseph’s team went out and failed to score in the first quarter. It was the first time they failed to score in the first quarter since Week 2, another win in the division against the Raiders.
The Broncos scored their first points on Phillip Lindsay’s 41 yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He continues to be a huge bright spot for Denver, and a front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year. After kicking off, Philip Rivers started driving the Chargers down the field, but was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. The Broncos moved the ball into field goal range, but stalled.
Rather than take the points, and extend their lead, Vance Joseph elected to go for it on 4th and one from the 16 yard line. If they pick it up, everyone is happy. They didn’t. The benefit of hindsight makes it easy to judge, so some will argue he did the right thing, but this would become a factor as the game went on. Denver won by two. The math isn’t that hard. Joseph’s decision to go for it took points off the board, and helped to make the comeback necessary.
In the third quarter another interception brought Denver into the red zone. Von Miller’s interception return to the Chargers’ 18 yard line led to an eventual ‘welcome back’ touchdown for Royce Freeman. He and Lindsay keep showing up each week and having a huge impact. The Broncos had kept the game close, and were in another tight game.
The defense forced a three and out on the next Chargers possession. The Broncos ensuing drive was like watching a futures game. Lindsay and Freeman were big parts, and Sutton snagged a short pass over the middle that he turned into a 39 yard gain. Eventually, Lindsay scored from the Wildcat formation.
After a comeback win for the #Broncos, @AdamMalnati16 and I had some fun with the @MileHighReport Radio Podcast. Couldn't help but enjoy the game. #BroncosCountry may still be concerned about the future, but a win over the #Chargers is always nice. https://t.co/vyvBMpcrgB— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) November 19, 2018
The formation worked so well that Denver ran the same play when going for the two point conversion. This time they ran it with Keenum, and he failed to convert, or did he. Replay showed conclusively that the ball crossed the goal line before his knees hit the ground. As I said on the podcast, rather than challenge and get the two points, Joseph elected to hold onto his challenge flag.
This decision would factor in once again. As the game wound down, the Broncos worked themselves into a position to win. After Rivers inexplicably crumbled under the pressure, Denver got the ball with two minutes left, down by two. From their own eight yard line, Denver needed to get into field goal range.
Emmanuel Sanders 38 yard catch on second and 5 put the team on track. After an offensive pass interference, Sutton caught the ball and took off on 3rd down. He raced down the middle of the field for 30 yards, putting the Broncos in perfect position to win the game. Brandon McManus strolled out and kicked a redeeming 34-yard game winning field goal as time expired.
It was a great win, but it continued to highlight the biggest issue on the team. The Broncos have played in mostly close games, which they could have won. However, Vance Joseph and his staff continue to make decisions that put the team in difficult scenarios. If Joseph kicks the field goal early on, or challenges the two point conversion, the game looks completely different.
The one big takeaway from the Broncos win against the Chargers has to be that Vance Joseph is failing Football 101.