Playing for nothing other than pride, the Denver Broncos lost 16-19 to the Los Angeles Chargers today. Both teams came into the game missing key contributors. Von Miller, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Uchenna Nwosu, A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan, Keenan Allen. You get the picture. Both teams were banged up.
Here’s what we learned.
The Broncos blew an early opportunity.
The Chargers pass rush was a shell of itself without Joey Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu today. As a team, the rest of the Chargers defense had 12 sacks coming in and it showed early. The Broncos offense drove 71 yards on the first drive of the game with Melvin Gordon and LaVante Bellamy logging six carries for 43 yards. Lock had a ton of time from his first drive on, which made his first interception even more painful.
McManus missed two kicks on one attempt.
Early in the second quarter the Broncos’ offense pushed for the endzone but couldn’t convert a 3rd and 9 from the 24. On the first fourth down miss, Brandon McManus was bailed out by an L.A. offside. It didn’t matter and McManus missed his second attempt on 4th and 4 from the 19. According to CBS, it was his first miss in 35 attempts within the 40.
Even if Jeudy had found a way to catch this the Broncos were short of the sticks. pic.twitter.com/m3soFKiM2M— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 27, 2020
The defense fought admirably
The Broncos played without four of their top five corners while the Chargers were down Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and lost Bryan Bulaga during the game. All told, I thought Fangio did a nice job making Herbert work for it today. He had 17 yards passing on the first two drives and the Chargers didn’t convert a third down ‘til the second quarter. If the offense had made the most of their opportunities the Broncos go into halftime down three.
With the Broncos going nowhere I’ve started to look at 2021 needs. While linebacker is hard to ignore, it’s not because Josey Jewell is bad so much as he’s not so good the Broncos can’t do better. He almost had an interception on the Chargers first drive when he stepped in front of a Herbert pass on third down. On the third drive of the day, LA created a no-win situation for him on Austin Ekeler. The next drive Jewell stuck in coverage as Herbert scrambled, which saved the play. So it didn’t surprise me that Jewell had a chance to play hero on 3rd and long in the fourth quarter.
The other thing that stood out about the defense today is how the line performed. It obviously helped that Bryan Bulaga gave way to Storm Norton, but both Malik Reed and Shelby Harris made their presence felt in this one. Reed had a sack fumble in the first half that Denver couldn’t recover. Harris had a couple of batted passes and also made it through the line to disrupt a few carries. I look forward to going back over both their games this week.
Shelby Harris with a batted pass on 3rd down. pic.twitter.com/5GisKXKbVK— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 27, 2020
Lock to Jeudy is a rollercoaster ride.
From the opening play of the game it was clear Jeudy would a key part of the Broncos’ gameplan. When K.J. Hamler left the game in the first it went from key to critical. Lock looked for 10 early and often, which led me to look up his career high in targets before halftime. It was the misses around the redzone that stand out most:
- There was the 3rd and 9 miss where Lock tried to hit a smothered receiver on a comeback that wouldn’t convert the sticks.
- A second down slant Jeudy dropped.
- On the first play of the second half Lock tried to avoid Chris Harris in the flat and Jeudy couldn’t hang on.
- A should-be touchdown in the corner of the endzone Jeudy didn’t bring in.
Lock finds Jeudy to no avail and the Broncos have to kick. pic.twitter.com/fGTc1YdGlK— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 27, 2020
Lock to everyone else was pretty encouraging.
Without going back over the game it’s hard to get too caught up in this, but the Chargers entered today as a top 5 team by DVOA against WR1s. They were league average or worse against every other type of receiver, and it continued today. If you take out the end of game chuck-and-duck drive, Lock completed of 17 of his 25 targets to receivers not named Jerry for 179 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. I was most impressed with Lock’s throws to Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton.
Lock finds Tim Patrick on 4th and long for a Broncos first down! pic.twitter.com/f5BycIbeKv— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 27, 2020
DaeSean Hamilton had a really awesome catch.
There’s been a rather vocal segment of Broncos Country who have wanted to run him out of town since last season, so it was really cool to see him have another strong game against L.A.
Shelby Harris has a son!
This may be cheating a little because I found this out before kickoff. I don’t care, congrats to Shelby and Stephanie Harris!
Let’s hurry this game up gotta make it home for the birth of my son!— Shelby Harris (@ShelbyHarris93) December 27, 2020