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16 things we learned after the Broncos’ 20-13 win over the Chargers

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The 2019 Denver Broncos are not the first in franchise history to start a season 0-5. They beat up the Los Angeles Chargers en route to a 20-13 victory.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
Von Miller was all but unstoppable today.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Quietly, the Fangio Broncos were the best 0-4 team among the remaining winless teams. They were two garbage questionable calls away from 2-2, after all. Despite the zebra’s best efforts today, they put down the Chargers.

The win means the 2019 Broncos will not be the first team in franchise history to open a season 0-5, which is good news because the schedule still looks like a gauntlet.

Broncos 2019 regular season schedule

Wk Date Opponent Time (MT) TV Score Record
Wk Date Opponent Time (MT) TV Score Record
1 Sep 9 at Raiders (MNF) 8:20 PM ESPN 24-16 L 0-1
2 Sep 15 vs Bears 2:25 PM FOX 16-14 L 0-2
3 Sep 22 at Packers 11:00 AM FOX 27-16 L 0-3
4 Sep 29 vs Jaguars 2:25 PM CBS 26-24 L 0-4
5 Oct. 6 at Chargers 2:05 PM CBS 20-13 W 1-4
6 Oct 13 vs Titans 2:25 PM CBS 16-0 W 2-4
7 Oct 17 vs Chiefs (TNF) 6:20 PM NFLN 30-6 L 2-5
8 Oct 27 at Colts 11:00 AM CBS 15-13 L 2-6
9 Nov 3 vs Browns 2:25 PM CBS 24-19 W 3-6
10 Nov 10 BYE
11 Nov 17 at Vikings 11:00 AM CBS 27-23 L 3-7
12 Nov 24 at Bills 11:00 AM CBS 20-3 L 3-8
13 Dec 1 vs Chargers 2:25 PM CBS 23-20 W 4-8
14 Dec 8 at Texans 11:00 AM CBS 38-24 W 5-8
15 Dec 15 at Chiefs 11:00 AM CBS 23-3 L 5-9
16 Dec 22 vs Lions 2:05 PM CBS 27-17 W 6-9
17 Dec 29 vs Raiders 2:25 PM CBS 16-15 W 7-9

Anyways, here’s what we learned today:

1. Adam Gotsis was, in fact, inactive.

If you were keeping up with the Broncos rumors Saturday it isn’t a surprise that Gotsis ceded his snaps to Mike Purcell. 9News Vince Lombardi tweeted it out a little before noon yesterday.

Apparently, Mike Klis doesn’t keep up with his co-workers though.

2. Alexander Johnson finally gets into the starting lineup.

It seems moving Adam Gotsis to the bench wasn’t the only way Vic Fangio planned to try and improve the Broncos run defense. Today marked the first time Alexander Johnson would play in place of one of the injured linebackers.

I’ve vocally questioned the decision to play Nelson over Johnson since it happened way back in week one. Against the Raiders Fangio elected to play the recently signed free agent over a player who had looked like a poor man’s version of Todd Davis in the preseason. It wasn’t a huge surprise that the Raiders ran at will on him.

It wouldn’t be a big surprise if Johnson’s role continues to grow now that Bradley Chubb is out for the year. I wonder if his athleticism could prove problematic in coverage against some matchups, but he offers more than most of the other linebackers as a blitzer.

As the game went on, he looked more and more comfortable in space as well. I still wonder if his overall athleticism means he’ll need some protection like Davis and Jewell are, but he did nothing in this game to suggest he shouldn’t be on the field more often.

I’m serious when I say Alexander Johnson looked like the second best player on the Broncos defense today. My biggest complaint after watching everything live is that he dropped his second interception and it would have iced the game.

3. The offense open with two straight touchdowns.

I mentioned leading up to the game how the Chargers defense has been decimated by injuries. It didn’t take long for Rich Scangarello and the Broncos offense to take advantage.

Joe Flacco followed up the first drive by getting the ball to a wide open Courtland Sutton, who ran the rest of the way for a huge play.

4. Justin Simmons with the Broncos first takeaway of 2019

On the Chargers second drive of the game, Von Miller (I know, not Malik Reed. Saw Justin Hollins and tried to be fast) rushed off the right side and rushed Philip Rivers into a high pass. Justin Simmons was there to do the rest.

5. Joe Flacco strip-sack keeps the game close.

One of the players Michael Peterson mentioned as a guy to watch was Uchenna Nwosu. I joked at the time that he had been a menace to me in my Madden 20 franchise. I should have seen it as a sign.

6. De’Vante Bausby suffers a scary injury

Following the Flacco fumble, the Chargers handed the ball to Austin Ekeler. The Broncos corner went in to make the play and wound up motionless on the ground. It’s a scary hit, so you may want to scroll on past this one.

7. Minus Bausby the Broncos secondary struggles on third down.

After the injury, the Chargers drove the field and found a startling amount of success on third downs when they would spread out. While the initial concern was Isaac Yiadom, it was a DPI by Duke Dawson and a pick play against Todd Davis that helped L.A. get into the redzone.

They bogged down once they got there and Rivers was called for intentional grounding on third down. The Broncos lucked out when the Chargers new kicker Chase McLaughlin missed a field goal to leave them at 0.

8. McManus gets the first laugh.

Following the McLaughlin miss the Broncos move the ball down the field. Following a throw to Emmanuel Sanders along the sideline Anthony Lynn threw a flag that the refs let him pick up.

After the challenge that wasn’t, Denver’s offense got into the red zone and stalled out. Brandon McManus made a field goal to give them a three score lead for the first time in months.

9. The good, bad, and beautiful at the end the 1st half.

Following the 17-0 lead the Chargers stormed down the field. Once more they leaned heavily on spread looks when it mattered. Heading into the game I mentioned how the Broncos may find an underrated advantage against the Chargers’ interior offensive line. That happened on second down when Shelby Harris got to the quarterback.

Unfortunately a holding call against Isaac Yiadom and a nice play to Austin Ekeler got L.A. into the red zone. Soon after news broke that Justin Hollins was out with a non contact knee injury and questionable to return. This was especially troubling because Hollins and Malik Reed had been rotating snaps in Chubb’s old spot.

Facing fourth and goal at the end of the half, the Chargers elected to go for it and got the ball to Ekeler on a run. Kareem Jackson was having none of it, knocking the ball out of his hands for a touchback.

10. Wadman’s awesome punt that won’t show up in Box Score

The first time the Broncos had to punt today, Colby Wadman looked like he’d pin Rivers within the five. Unfortunately, Fred Brown lost the ball in the sun (I think?) and it turned into a touchback.

11. Nwosu strikes again in the second half.

Let’s just say it will be nice when Ja’Wuan James is back.

12. Isaac Yiadom is benched for Devontae Harris

I’ll have to look back at the All-22 to find out exactly when 26 turned into 27, but I noticed Harris on the boundary to start the second half. So did Rivers, going after him twice to start the Chargers’ second drive.

Depending on how serious De’Vante Bausby’s injury is, it will be interesting to see how the situation shakes out going forward. Already in this game it looked like Duke Dawson has settled in as the designated slot so that Kareem Jackson can play safety.

In the fourth quarter Rivers went after Harris once again. The Chargers got a big gain after a double move led Harris into a(n iffy?) DPI.

13. Joe Flacco turns into the pumpkin in the third. Again.

After the sack by Nwosu, it almost looked liked Case Keenum was playing for the Broncos. Flacco stopped looking downfield and started to dump the ball off short at every opportunity. He also had balls batted, an interception, and a pass that should have been intercepted.

14. Von Miller looks like the Broncos’ MVP. Again.

Miller has been mentioned in trade rumors by a few different members of the national media, despite the fact that his contract makes it very unlikely. Even if that wasn’t the case, he’s too valuable to dump.

He did nothing today to change my mind on that front. Nothing.

15. Remember when Wilkinson was going to replace Bolles at LT?

Seriously, get well soon Ja’Wuan James.

16. The Broncos’ backs give McManus a chance to ice the win.

17-10 in the fourth quarter and the Broncos defense comes up with a huge stop to give the offense a chance to ice the game with bout four minutes left. After a big hold on Emmanuel Sanders on second and 8, Royce Freeman carries Chargers’ defenders to get close to Brandon McManus’ field goal range.

Not to be outdone, Phillip Lindsay does his part to ensure his kicker will have a good opportunity.

These guys impressed me most

I’ll revisit this list once I get a look at the All-22, but these Broncos were a huge part in the victory today. It was a defensive victory, and those are the guys who really blew me away. A week after Leonard Fournette gashed them the Chargers’ run game was completely shut down. Even minus De’Vante Bausby and facing an elite receiver in Keenan Allen they kept Rivers mostly in check.

Offense

1. Phillip Lindsay

2. Connor McGovern

3. Courtland Sutton

Defense

1. Von Miller

2. Alexander Johnson

3. Kareem Jackson

4. Justin Simmons

5. Chris Harris Jr.

6. Shelby Harris

7. Malik Reed

8. Derek Wolfe