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Broncos at Chargers: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos pulled out a hard fought win against the Los Angeles Chargers for their 4th win of the season. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on an exciting win for Broncos Country.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This game was quite the breath of fresh air for me as a fan in all honesty. No matter how badly the Broncos coaches tried to screw things up and no matter how hard the refs tried to hand the game to the sandy eggo sparklers, the players kept grinding it out to put a victory in their pockets.

But before we get too far into the nuts and bolts of the game, can we just take a minute to give thanks for our team being in the AFC West where we have not one, but two franchises who afford us semi-home games when we visit their stadiums. It has been a fairly common theme for when we play the Chargers and the Raiders for our fans to travel well, but it never ceases to amaze me at how many fans are rocking the Orange and Blue in the stands and making it noisy for the home team.

I largely forget the Chargers given how insignificant they are as a franchise, but it makes it pretty hilarious to me to see how poorly they lose. Their sidelines were replete with thrown helmets and colorful language as the good guys kicked the game winning field goal. Also, the always classy Keenan Allen hilariously dogged himself and his team with his salty quote that the Broncos suck. Yeah dude...and they just took your team out back to the woodshed in your own house. That makes you, Rivers, and the rest of your cronies supreme choke artists.

Offense

This wasn’t a flashy game by the offense by any means. As a matter of fact, it was very old-school grind out the runs and make passes when they are needed kind of day for the Broncos.

But I love that they stuck with the run through the whole game for the first time this season from the first quarter until the final drive that had to be all passes.

What is apparent to me more and more as I watch this current iteration of the Denver Bronco offense is that there is serious talent on this team. Dangerous weapons take the field for this team, but we have to get a QB who can more consistently put them in position to do damage or get a coordinator who can scheme them into more winning connections.

Line

These 5 guys are the heroes of the game and I want to make sure they get a lot of love in this review. This is a group of backups including two guys who are tackles playing guard.

Let’s start off with Garett Bolles who played a spectacular game front to back with no penalties and some of the best technical work we’ve seen from him in his whole career. Let’s also note that he did it against some extremely formidable pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

What’s more impressive to me is the job the three guys in the middle did. Connor McGovern got his first start at center. Elijah Wilkinson and Billy Turner clocked their first starts as guards. The three of them were absolute nails in the run and pass game. I expected a complete crap show of a game from the line given how many depth players were needing to start and instead we got one of the best games we’ve seen from a Denver line in years.

Let’s not overlook the job Jared Veldheer did at right tackle. He’s a vet who’s been dinged up this year and had an absolutely phenomenal game. He may not be a Bronco next year, but if he wants to keep playing, someone should sign him as he’s playing inspired football.

Quarterbacks

I’m not going to sell anyone a line about Case Keenum being the answer to any major question for the Broncos. I will say that this team can win a lot of games if he plays as solid as he did in this game. It wasn’t spectacular offensive fireworks, but it was a solid overall job without any big mistakes.

I also have noticed between last game and this one that Keenum is actually putting more heat on his passes downfield and I like that a ton. I honestly think it is adding some accuracy to what he’s doing on the field and helping him control some of the overthrow issues that have plagued him this season.

But at the end of the day, as a fan I love his final drive and what he was able to do in order to get the team in a position to win. He was flawless in execution regardless of refs robbing him and Tim Patrick of a beautiful 10+ yard connection on a bogus OPI call. His pass deep down the field to Courtland Sutton to set up the field goal took major stones and caught him right in stride.

Running Backs

Royce Freeman being healthy was a heck of a boon for this team. I love the way he runs. He’s got great burst for a big guy and that was on showcase in the drive that he scored the TD on.

Phillip Lindsay for the first time this year I felt was used as the kind of weapon he should be all game long. He scored out of the wildcat, he scored from a regular run formation with superb blocking in front of him, he was thrown to in the flat, and he helped make play action work (when the Broncos decided to actually utilize it). Speed kills in the NFL. This kid has it in spades.

Receivers

Courtland Sutton is more and more getting involved with the offense and being used as a focal point for the passing game. The good news is that he’s looking more and more comfortable as the season wears on. His final catch in the game winning drive was one heck of a smooth route with more of that killer speed I talked about in reference to Lindsay.

Emmanuel Sanders is likely going to be the guy most people forget about in this game as we hype up the other weapons, but they shouldn’t. His plays were absolutely field changing time and again. The offense is a gear better when Sanders is involved as he was this week.

I was honestly underwhelmed with the job Jeff Heuerman did this week. His worst play was on a 3rd down late where the ball was underthrown, but absolutely should have been caught. There were whispers last week about Elway wanting to lock him up and I’m just not convinced he’s worth an extension with what little production we’ve seen from him so far his his career.

Defense

It wasn’t pretty, but the defense got the job done. They did a pretty superb job against the run and were good enough against the pass. They looked hungry and opportunistic against the Chargers.

Front 7

The guy that really got my attention upfront this game was Adam Gotsis. He was disruptive throughout the game with a sack, pressure, and TFL. He was a big part of the team’s superb run stopping.

But let’s not forget about the super rookie Bradley Chubb. He turned in a disruptive night as well with a couple of quarterback hits, a pair of TFLs, and a really strange gimme sack on Phillip Rivers.

Credit to the master though...Von Miller got the game turned around with his pick of Rivers. What’s interesting to note is that Von was the reason Rivers made that silly throw-away at the end of the game. It was a very similar play to the pick he got earlier and stepped out to defend the screen again which caused Rivers to throw it in the dirt instead of risk getting picked off again.

The extension the Broncos gave to Todd Davis is looking like a genius move at this point. I keep talking each week about how good he looks as hands-down the best ILB on the team and this week was no exception. I don’t even recognize the Todd Davis I saw defending the pass compared to the guy we see this season. Unlike Brandon Marshall, he’s playing even harder and better after getting an extension.

That being said, Josey Jewell needs some more time in the oven. I think very highly of the team picking him in the draft this year, but he didn’t look sharp against the Chargers this week. The biggest thing he’s needing to work on this offseason is finding a way to eek out some more speed and quickness out of his frame. He was plodding at times trying to defend the flat and crossing routes and you just can’t play like that in today’s NFL as a linebacker who’s expected to defend passes in those areas.

Secondary

Look, I love me some Chris Harris Jr. But let’s be real here: outside of his really solid INT, the dude got worked over this week by Rivers and Allen. It wasn’t some big Julio Jones or Antonio Brown kinda night by far, but he gave up a TD and almost 10 yards per pass to the guy.

For the first time this season I’m going to have to say that Bradley Roby had a better game by far than CHJ. He even crashed down against the run and laid the wood a time or two to go along with a couple of very solid pass defenses.

Justin Simmons continues his 2018 season of looking a little lost at times on the field. He just doesn’t seem to have the vision to play well in the defense the way the coaches are asking him to play. I’m almost of the mind that he’s better off being assigned as a man defender instead of any assignments that include covering a deep zone and watching the play underneath.

Special Teams

The one bright spot of the coaching in the game was the decision to attempt the fake punt. It was a superb design and execution. Colby Wadman threw a great pass to Andy Janovich who I always want to see more of on the field to get a big first down early in the game.

I got the pleasure of seeing the Sunday night game with the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings and I just want to say it made me appreciate the place kicker we have in Brandon McManus. Cody Parkey went onto the field for every kick looking like he was just about either pee himself or puke his guts out. In contrast, McManus went into the game winning kick looking steely, cool, and determined. Thank you for not making me pee myself when you take the field, Brandon.

Final Thoughts

I’m still quite bearish on this team under this coaching regime. This game did nothing to reassure me that the “leaders” calling the shots on the field are capable to be the future for this franchise.

But I love me some winning Broncos football.

Can we win out and maybe make some noise? Sure. That’s a possible thing. I don’t think it is probably or even a good idea (anything close to 8-8 may end up with another year of Vance Joseph as head coach which is the closest thing to a nightmare that I can think of).

That being said, I do enjoy the dreamish thoughts of making the playoffs and getting to go into Arrowhead to be the team to ruin the chef fan’s dreams of this season finally being “their year.”

As always, let’s continue the discussion in the comment section. Who did I miss that needs some serious love from Broncos Country? Should we talk more about how funny it is to see a team more poorly coached than us at least in the penalty department? Does it ever get old to see Phillip Rivers’ sad face? And when are the refs ever going to call Antonio Gates for OPI since that’s the only way he gets a step on anyone at this point in his old, tired, worn out career?