More than most opponents, the Chargers have been an interesting reflection for where the Broncos are at in recent seasons.
In week one of 2017, the Broncos squeak out a victory after Shelby Harris blocks a game winning field goal. The game was the start of a 3-1 opening month for Vance Joseph, a record that left him looking like a brilliant hire for Elway. The winning record died in the week 6 rematch in L.A. when the Chargers shutout the Broncos on their climb back from the 0-4 start to Anthony Lynn’s tenure.
Last season’s victory over the Chargers in week 11 marked a bit of a reprieve from the death spiral Joseph’s tenure took after another promising start to the year. Even with a 4-6 record, beating a playoff bound Bolts left Broncos Country buying into the Mile High Magic once more. The feeling was fragile, and took a mortal blow when Emmanuel Sanders injured his Achilles before dying in San Francisco. By the time Denver lost to L.A. they were playing for pride.
Which brings us to this season and two teams seemingly on very different roads. The 0-4 Broncos are in the middle of an adjustment to another new coach while grappling with the loss of Bradley Chubb for the season. The 2-2 Chargers are battling through their own injury luck while trying to grasp onto a playoff berth in the unsettled AFC race.
The fifth game of the year could have lasting implications for both squads, which is why I sat down and spoke with Bolts from the Blue’s Michael Peterson to get a view on this week’s matchup.
Our conversation has been lightly edited.
1st and 10
News broke after the Dolphins game that Melvin Ingram will miss time, and he’s just the most recent Chargers star player to suffer from poor injury luck this year. Yet the Chargers are 2-2. How are they doing it?
MP: The Chargers, in all honesty, are two scoreless second halves away from being undefeated heading into this Sunday. The injuries have been HORRENDOUS and quite unfathomable at times, but when you have Philip Rivers at the helm, he elevates those around him.
Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have been amazing without Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen’s back must hurt from carrying the passing game so far. The defense has been “enough” to get to 2-2 and it’ll be interesting to see how the team deals with the loss of Melvin Ingram over the next few weeks. Expect more Uchenna Nwosu at that LEO spot.
I hope it’s not a bad omen that Nwosu gave my right tackle fits in Madden last night.
Uchenna Nwosu and Rayshawn Jenkins.— Jason Balliet II (@Syntari13) September 29, 2019
Enough said, but really.
-Nwosu with spectacular speed to disrupt the play.
-Jenkins turns on the jets and wraps up beautifully.
-Perryman and Thomas Davis fall for it a liiiiittle bit but recover and contain nicely in case Grant breaks. pic.twitter.com/gq7bC0APYL
2nd and 7
Denver’s had some poor injury luck as well and now enter week five looking to avoid their first 0-5 start in franchise history. Outside of that desperation, what areas of the Broncos look most concerning for L.A.?
MP: Even at 0-4, the Broncos will never lay down and die in front of the Chargers. Like last year, they were able to steal one away from a hot Chargers squad. As long as they have Von Miller, and the Chargers continue to trot out Trent Scott and Sam Tevi at offensive tackle, I’ll be worried about them being able to keep Rivers upright. Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe are two good interior players, as well.
Von Miller. Still good. #Broncos SACK! pic.twitter.com/tOKQwOg86K— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 29, 2019
3rd and 3
What are weaknesses on the Broncos that the Chargers should be able to exploit?
MP: Even without Ingram, the Chargers should attempt to exploit Garrett Bolles and his tendency to hold far too often. It also seems like the run game with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman is up to par with their performances last season. With the Chargers looking improved in their run defense, I would expect the defense to force Joe Flacco to beat them through the air, especially with starting cornerback Mile Davis back in the line-up after missing the first 3 games of the season.
The play design is so damn fun & a slew of #Broncos nail their blocking assignments to get Lindsay into space on this Gun Counter. pic.twitter.com/sN4Q1N6lF5— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 1, 2019
4th and inches
What’s your prediction for the game?
MP: I expect the Chargers to keep this one close during the first half. Maybe a 14-13 score in favor of the Bolts. But Anthony Lynn finds a way to put them away in the second half (but not without a few scares).
Von Miller posts multiple sacks and Rivers throws at least one pick in the second half. The Chargers still manage to survive 27-23 in Costa Mesa.
Who wins on Sunday?
This poll is closed
Broncos by a lot.
Broncos by a little.
Chargers by a lot.
Chargers by a little.