A week off can be a great thing - for fans as well as teams. So let’s hope our beloved Broncos have taken the week to reflect and get serious because in spite of the bleak outlook due to inconsistent play, injuries and head-scratching coaching, the 5-5 Broncos are in the hunt.
Of course, that means beating all their AFC West rivals, and that’s no easy task. But in true ultimate fan fashion, rookie Johnny G_627 is treating his game outcome prediction like the deep ball - planning for a completion, hoping for a scoring and praying it brings a ‘W.’ Because Johnny G has been rooting for this team since John Elway’s earliest days of Mile High Magic, and that’s enough to make any fan believe in miracles - even if they seem impossible (and if you’ve forgotten some of that, enjoy the video clips throughout to remind you!)
So here’s to some Mile High Magic on Sunday that gives this Denver team a swift kick in the a$$ to take charge of its performance (see what I did there?) - and ultimately its season.
Week 12: Chargers at Broncos
MHR - It’s been over a week since the Broncos lost to the Eagles. Are you feeling any better/worse/same about this team this season?
Johnny G_627: About the same. Until coaching changes are made this team will continue to be a group of talented individuals with no team identity. It’s really sad too. I feel like George Paton handed them an identity by drafting Surtain, Sterns, Browning, Javonte Williams and Quinn Meinerz. All the pieces needed to put out a crushing defense with a punishing rushing attack, only to see it misused by the coaches.
MHR - So about those Chargers…if the Broncos win the toss, do you recommend they start on offense and try to get going right away with points, or do you recommend starting on defense and trying to make a statement by stopping the Bolts (if they can!)
Johnny G_627: Well, deferring hasn’t seemed to work. Might as well get the failed first drive out of the way as soon as possible.
MHR - Bradley Chubb may play this weekend, but he won’t be a full go, according to Vic Fangio. How much of a difference can No. 55 make if he’s not 100 percent yet? Does he still make an impact in the run defense and pass rush if he’s in there?
Johnny G_627: I think he’ll be able to set the edge fairly well against the run. Hopefully he can take on some double teams to free up Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper so they can make some plays. I don’t expect to see a lot of QB pressures from him, especially if he’s drawing a double team.
MHR - Kareem Jackson is out Sunday and Barron Browning is questionable. How much could this impact our defense’s ability to contain the Chargers’ offense? Which receiver, running back or tight end needs the most attention from Fangio and the defense on Sunday?
Johnny G_627: It could have quite an impact. Sterns will give plenty of effort filling in for Kareem, but I’m not sold on his ability to come up in the run game. I think the bigger impact will be Browning, however. I watched Kenny Young chase after the Eagles running back when he took off on a route, opening up a huge lane for Hurts to run. Hurts basically followed the RB route and Young never even noticed the QB was running right behind him, picking up yards. He had absolutely no awareness of what was going on in the play. If it’s Young and Strnad out there, it could be a big day for Herbert and his crew. Hopefully Avery Johnson is up to speed because that sounds like a nightmare.
MHR - I wrote on Friday that the Broncos HAVE to start fast on offense and need to be aggressive … and many commenters rightfully noted that’s impossible with Bridgewater and Shurmur. I’m not going to die on that hill, but I do believe it’s possible…even if often way too unlikely. Do you think Bridgewater and our OC can “start fast” if say, their AFC West life depended on it?
Johnny G_627: It’s possible. I’m more concerned about Shurmur than Teddy. I think Teddy wants to get back out there after that non-tackle disaster and show that he’s ready to give 100% on every play. Shurmur having any semblance of a game plan is another story entirely. He’s had two weeks to prepare, so maybe he can at least get them in field goal range before he starts calling the same plays the defense has already seen.
MHR - The Chargers defense hasn’t been that great against the run. Is this the game Javonte Williams really breaks out with “an angry run?” How would you recommend to Pat Shurmur to use his two running backs?
Johnny G_627: I’d love to say yes, this is the game Javonte breaks out, but I’ve seen the run game abandoned early and often by Shurmur despite its success. The Chargers run game coordinator was fired by John Elway when he let John Fox and his crew go. Jay Rodgers will have his guys prepared and fired up. I’d love to see Shurmur shake things up and give them a heavy dose of Pookie in the first half and then start working in MGIII more in the second to hit the home runs. I also want to see Williams getting more touches in power/gap concepts. The few I’ve seen him in have been great results, and I can’t understand why we haven’t seen it more.
MHR - Joey Bosa is always a problem and our O-line is still mending. How do the Broncos scheme plays to help Bridgewater get rid of the ball quickly and NOT get in Bosa’s way?
Johnny G_627: This one’s probably a little beyond my pay grade, but it seems like they need to get some crossers with Jeudy and Fant over the middle. Get some quick rubs and get the ball into the hands of the playmakers. I think they can also neutralize it a bit by staying committed to the run. Get those play action and run action passes going when they get the right looks from the defense.
MHR - Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick both got signed for contract extensions last week and Jerry Jeudy is just in his second year. That’s a very solid WR corps. How excited are you for this group or does their true success depend on whether the Broncos can find a QB next year?
Johnny G_627: I’m super excited that they’ll remain together and with KJ coming back too, we could be in for a real treat next year. Their success is more dependent upon finding a new OC in my opinion. Most NFL quarterbacks can put some highlight reel stuff out there with a strong receiving corps and a good OC. Paton secured the first piece. Now he needs to get the second.
MHR - Do you think we’ll see anything from our tight ends this weekend?
Johnny G_627: I sure hope so. I think they’re all very capable players and if the run game can be successful, especially in 12 personnel, they could be in for some real success out of play action.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on defense for the Broncos stopping the Chargers?
Johnny G_627: The ILBs. Whoever suits up this weekend has to bring it and has to keep their head in the game. If they play like they did against the Eagles, this game could get ugly quick. They have to stay disciplined in their gaps and also remain mindful of the QB running lanes on passing downs. Having Browning back to help chase down Herbert with his lateral speed would go a long way to improving the results on the defensive side of the ball.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on offense for the Broncos to get past the Chargers defense and score points?
Johnny G_627: Javonte Williams…if Shurmur lets him. I really think Meinerz and Fleming can be x-factors in opening up some holes on that right side. Their low mileage, rest and strength could help to take advantage of some players who may have been gassed a bit from last week’s shoot-out against the Steelers. If Javonte can carry some of those safeties and DBs with him on some angry runs, it could lead to some big advantages for the Broncos’ passing game.
MHR - Fill in the blanks: Broncos lose if _____. Broncos win if _______.
Johnny G_627: Broncos lose if they have another uninspired performance. It’ll take them firing on all cylinders to get the best of a pretty good Chargers team. Broncos win if they are successful in the run game and can pressure and contain Herbert with limited blitzes.
MHR - All the rest of the games are technically “must-win” games if the Broncos will have any sort of hope this season. How many games do you think, err…*believe,* the Broncos will win out of their last seven?
Johnny G_627: It’s a tough question because I believe in the Broncos’ talent. I just don’t believe in their coaching. On talent alone, I’d say 6. Throw the coaching in there and it’s more like 2 or 3. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe, but then Dana Scully uncovers the harsh reality of the amazingly human coaching staff.
MHR - All-time favorite win over the Chargers?
Johnny G_627: 2013 divisional playoff. I was at the game. Some jackass in a Rivers jersey was talking all kinds of trash before the game about how “Rivers owns Peyton in the playoffs” and “no Von Miller means no pass rush.” He got to know a little more about Malik Jackson that game and I think Rivers had all of -11 yards passing in the first half. By the second half when Rivers started to rally, that guy had totally been shut up and we didn’t hear another word out of him. It was… satisfying.
MHR - Fun question…how much are you going to miss the Von Miller-Philip Rivers connection this game?
Johnny G_627: Oh man, I miss Rivers’ stupid pointy face so much. Especially when it was whining to the refs after Miller put him on his ass. Sometimes there’s just players you love to hate. Rivers was one of those for me. Always talking $#!T and I loved watching Von make him eat it.
San Diego has minus-11 passing yards today, thanks to the Broncos' three sacks.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 12, 2014
Stats for Teddy Bridgewater? 227 pass yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 6 rush yds
Stats for each Broncos RB? Williams, 73 rush yards, 10 pass yards, 1 TD; Gordon, 42 rush yards, 18 pass yards, 1 TD
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton, 63 yds, 0 TD; Patrick, 47 yards, 0 TD; Jeudy 38 yards, 0 TD
Longest FG for McManus on Sunday? 53 yards
Number of sacks to Bridgewater? 3
Number of sacks to Justin Herbert? 3
Broncos player with the most tackles? Kenny Young
Who gets the first sack in the game for the Broncos? The most? Reed, Jones and Sterns each have 1
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1/2/1
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? None, the NFL wants a Week 13 battle for the top of the AFCW in prime time between the Broncos and Chiefs, so they’ll be doing everything they can to help the Broncos get there
Final Score? Despite a fairly negative tone throughout, I actually think the Broncos pull out a close one, 27 - 24!
Nov. 27, 1966 — 55 years ago today, the Broncos upset the San Diego Chargers 20–17 at Bears Stadium in Denver. This snapped a 6-game losing streak in the series for Denver. In the 4Q, John Bramlett had an 86-yard blocked FG return TD, and Wendell Hayes had a 56-yard rushing TD. pic.twitter.com/W8pkc8zm6D— Mile High Moments (@MileHighMoments) November 27, 2021
Favorite Broncos regular season game with Peyton Manning? Week 1, 2013 vs the Ravens. I was at the game. Peyton threw 7 TDs and while it didn’t fully vanquish the loss in the previous year in the playoffs, it went a long way to taking the sting out of it. What a fantastic day!
Favorite Broncos regular season game with John Elway? Week 1, 1986 vs the Raiders. I really became invested in the Broncos in 1985. The two losses to the Raiders that year sealed their fate and kept them out of the playoffs. I was already very committed to hating the Raiders and it felt so good to come out and smack em the first game of the season. The TD pass from Sewell to Elway was certainly icing on the cake. That season started off with a playoff caliber matchup and that team just kept that same intensity all season, well, until the Super Bowl.
Favorite postseason win, not a Super Bowl? 1986 AFC Championship. The Drive really shaped my fandom and solidified my undying love of the Broncos. After that, all things were possible. Odds didn’t matter. If John Elway was in the game, it could be won.
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl XXXII. I hadn’t waited as long as some Broncos fans for that moment, but it was a lifetime nonetheless. I don’t think heroin addicts ever felt a rush like that.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? The Chargers. They just suck. They’ll always suck and if you can’t beat the Chargers, then you suck. And it sucks to suck, so I really hate losing to the Chargers. Ever.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Raiders
Team you hate to lose to the most in the entire AFC (outside of the West)? Patriots
NFC team you cannot stand? Seahawks. Obnoxious twits.
NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)? The Eagles. They beat the Patriots and the Broncos never lost a Super Bowl to them.
Favorite game now looking forward to this season? Chiefs, Week 13. I’m still hoping for a miracle.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Meinerz. I love trench guys and I think he’s gonna be a nasty mauler for years to come.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Meinerz. As I said above, I love trench guys and I think he’s gonna be a nasty mauler for years to come.
Superstitions on game day? Not really, but I always have my Broncos mug and a jersey on.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Phil Simms. Thank Gawd he’s outta the booth.
Favorite sports cliche? If you’re not first, you’re last!
Favorite sports movie? Major League. I don’t even really like baseball all that much, but that movie kills me.
How did you get your MHR handle?
It’s my nickname from work and I’m not clever enough to think of something better
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I was born and raised in Denver. My parents didn’t really watch sports outside of a college bowl game or the Olympics, so I didn’t either until I was a little older. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Buchanan, was awesome and she was a huge Broncos fan. She would always find ways of working John Elway and the Broncos into her examples in class. Of course I knew who John Elway was and I had seen Broncos games before, but never really watched with much interest. Wanting to understand why this teacher who I was so fond of was always bringing up the Broncos, I started watching games and actually paying attention to them. I watched them intermittently at first, but halfway through the season I was hooked. I didn’t fully understand everything I saw that first season, but it was exciting when they would make big plays and win games and it was disappointing when they came up short. At the end of the season I knew 3 things: that I hated the Raiders after losing to them twice, that the Patriots stole our playoff spot and that I was going to do everything I could to get more football in my life. I’ve rarely missed a game since the 1986 season and if there’s anything watching John Elway has taught me, it’s to never lose hope. So here’s to hoping. Go Broncos!!!