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Broncos vs Chargers: The No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos pulled out a huge come back win to possibly save their NFL season. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the Denver Broncos’ most recent game.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Broncos decided to bring sexy back with a retro Tim Tebow game.

It honestly brought flashbacks to me of my Broncos fanhood circa 2011. Our defense was killing it. Our special teams were holding it down. Our offense was mostly 3 quarters of absolute garbage.

But the defense hung in there. They got worn down and let some big plays happen. But they hung in there.

And the offense finally showed signs of life. The offensive line either got their act together or (far more likely) the Chargers wore down from the altitude and lack of oxygen and they created enough space for Lock to start dropping dimes.

At the end of the day I’ll say, “Cheers!” to the Broncos for gutting out a tough win. The No Bull reality is that this offense has got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement to make if they are going to get this season on track and get themselves into the playoff hunt.

Defense

On the Charger’s first touchdown, Vic Fangio dropped everyone into zone and rushed 3. It was a terrible choice for the situation and led to an easy score. Herbert (unlike Lock) can make reads and find holes opening up the routes in his progression. If you don’t pressure him, he’s going to have an easy time scoring the ball.

In the second half he opened up the aggression much more with several 3rd down blitz calls that disrupted Herbert. I kept watching most passing plays by the Chargers face only 4 rushers. No mix of 4 really showed that they were up to the task of causing constant disruption. As much as Fangio wants his defense to be able to create pressure with just 4 rushers, he really should continue to use creativity and surprise blitzing to create the pressure needed to create big plays by his defense.

Front 7

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander Johnson was in top form in this game. He showed once again he is an all-around linebacker with a big TFL and a pass defense in the game. Against the run he was consistently showing up to either make the tackle or assist with it.

Bradley Chubb continues to show consistent positive form as a pass rusher. He got another sack (albeit maybe of 1-2 inches) and was disruptive. The troubling part for me was how many penalties he got in this game, one of which was a pretty big one on 3rd down. He needs to keep his game clean if he’s going to help the defense continue to succeed and get back to holding teams under 25 points per game.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Malik Reed isn’t making me not miss Von Miller, but I kept my eye on him quite a bit and he was winning more battles than he lost by far. He’s really starting to hit his stride as an edge rusher and showed up with a sack, TFL, and QH.

Secondary

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Simmons does a great job watching the QB on their first 3rd down to jump the route and snag the easy pick. A good pass rush up front helped rush the throw. When he’s able to sit back and read plays he’s obviously seen in game preparation, he’s a deadly safety.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Callahan did a superb job of coverage on his INT. His focus was first on breaking up the pass, but as the ball fell to him, he secured it for a huge turnover. He’s in my mind the cornerback from the Broncos playing the best consistent ball this season. He seems to always be on the hip pocket of his assignment and making plays every game.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Kareem Jackson in the 4th quarter played like a man who was straight up angry at life. He was crushing runs play after play (though I could do without him hitting one of his own). This is honestly the first game I can remember this season where I noticed his play as having an impact.

Offense

It is the tale of two halves, really. This first half offense was absolutely putrid. They rarely mixed up play calling and on every flipping play call there seemed to be only one read that Lock was working with. If that is by play design, someone needs to have a serious talk with Pat Shurmur. If that was because of how Lock decides to play, someone needs to have a serious talk with Drew Lock.

Quarterbacks

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock started the game off doing the same thing he’s been doing in the past few games: staring down his one read on any given pass play and making it easy for the defense. The team desperately needs him to grow and he just isn’t. Either he’s not being asked to do much by his OC or he’s not going through his progressions like he should.

Lock’s eyes are a huge detriment to the offense. He needs to be coached up on looking off safeties in a bad way as many of interceptions are direct results of him staring down his routes. And let’s be clear: this one read issue didn’t disappear in the 2nd half. The line held up better and Lock was able to throw with better form consistently. While I’m a HUGE fan of comeback wins (heck, isn’t that a part of our blood at this point as Bronco fans?), this team is playing with fire if they don’t start fixing this critical issue with their quarterback.

Line

Let’s start off this section by saying that the Chargers have one of the best 7 man defensive fronts in the NFL. Their edge players especially create a lot of trouble and are too much for most average NFL tackles to handle.

That being said, the offensive line in this game were well and truly offensive. I didn’t do a count, but I’d bet they lost more than 75% of the pass snaps as far as holding the pocket for 2.7 seconds.The Broncos were missing Graham Glasgow in a big way. Between that and having to face Melvin Igrahm and Joey Bosa, they spent a lot of time losing ground.

When the Chargers were climbing up in the scoreboard during the 1st half did you notice any differences between their line and how ours played? They gave Herbert all friggin day to read and throw the ball.

Running Backs

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Phillip Lindsay is such a spark for this team as a runner. In the 3rd quarter his shake to freeze the linebacker with his gap responsibility created a touchdown run once he was able to burst by him and accelerate. The Broncos need to make him the starting back moving forward if they are serious about winning football games. He’s head and shoulders a more impactful running back than Melvin Gordon III.

Gordon saved his best run of the game for the last drive on 3rd down and 1. He also hauled in a key reception with one hand in the game-winning drive for a first down. But aside from that, he was honestly completely mediocre. 3.3-3.5 yards per carry / reception don’t cut it and for the money the Broncos are shelling out to him he’s really not bringing the heat like I’d expect.

Receivers

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

DaeSean Hamilton 3rd and 8 conversion over the middle. Great catch on a great throw. He followed it up with a big time post route later in the 4th quarter for a touchdown. THIS is what Hamilton needs to bring each week. I’ve been dogging the guy this season for the mental lapses and lackluster play. He brought it in this game and was a big reason that the Broncos pulled out the win.

Jerry Jeudy made a critical conversion on 3rd and 16 which was huge for this team. He has a lot of work to do from what I saw though from the rest of the game. With as many injuries as this team has at WR, he’s seeing a lot of targets and not being able to haul them in. Some of this is on the QB, but Jeudy can help by creating more separation and having more focus to bring the ball in.

Noah Fant was a spectacular tight end for the Broncos in this game. He’s getting into a major groove for the Broncos in finding the creases in the middle of the field and being an easy target for Lock to use to get small chunks of yardage. This is likely going to open up some double move opportunities later in the season if the line can keep Lock clean long enough.

NFL “u2013 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS VS. DENVER BRONCOS Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Albert Okwuegbunam finally hauled in a TD for the Broncos in the red zone. He was lauded all training camp for his superb work down there and it is great to see the rookie finally haul one in in a game and help the team keep climbing back into the game.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

KJ Hamler took a big step as a rookie with his contribution to the game. His touchdown reception was

Final Thoughts

It has been one heck of a sloppy season so far and the Broncos’ 3-4 record reflects that. They are still looking like a team that can make some noise. I’m not saying they can or will win the division, but a winning record is achievable if the team can just move the needle at all on offense.

The team really seems like it has a chip on its shoulder. That can be a very impactful thing for a football team. It can also lead to misplaced faith. I’m proud of Lock and the offense pulling this game back and gutting out a huge win. I honestly think it can be a milestone for a young quarterback like Lock.

But I’d caution him and his coaches: they have some serious issues on offense and acting like if they just hang together and believe it will get better isn’t going to do anyone any good and could do a lot of harm to actual development and progress.

This is the time to keep building and see all the flaws that defense are game planning for week in and week out.