The Denver Broncos were on the brink of another disappointing outcome. A trend that has been going on year after year since Peyton Manning retired. Instead, they gut-checked and overcame the adversity stealing back the momentum and beating the Los Angeles Chargers in convincing fashion.
There were plenty of game ball performances. The team handed theirs out to Eric Saubert, Pat Surtain, Teddy Bridgewater, and Quinn Bailey. Here is who we gave our game balls out to for Week 12.
There was plenty of fan angst over Teddy Bridgewater’s laughable non-attempt at a tackle two weeks ago. He had to go into a bye week with that hanging over his head. If he was going to keep ahold of the locker room and of the fan base, he was going to have to show some heart and grit right out of the gates here in Week 12.
That’s exactly what we got. The first taste was a scramble for 11 yards and a dive to the pilon for the first touchdown.
Teddy Bridgewater scampers for 6 and it's a Broncos touchdown! pic.twitter.com/Vb1IOc0wou— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 28, 2021
He’d need more than that, though, to overcome that terrible decision two weeks ago. So he got hurt. A shin injury that left him fairly hobbled. In came Drew Lock protecting a 14-point lead. Lock proceeded to fumble, then threw a bad interception that led to a Chargers touchdown. The second half began with the game very much turning bad for the Denver Broncos. Bridgewater helped turn the tide and then helped put the nail in the coffin on the Chargers’ comeback hopes.
First career TD for Eric Saubert!— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 28, 2021
: CBS pic.twitter.com/GZ6UDE9UXj
That stiff arm on Joey Bosa to get that game-clinching touchdown sealed the deal for me. He proved he could rebound from that one bad decision and turned in several good decisions that showed that one play two weeks ago would not define him or his tenure in Denver. Here’s to keeping that momentum going over the final six games. - Tim Lynch
Vic Fangio has gotten a ton of very fair criticism for not looking like a head coach that can have his team ready to play consistently and as a coach unwilling to make the big decisions necessary to play winning football. This week he had his team dialed in and ready for the moment. His defense was dominating... even after losing its best player weeks ago in Von Miller. He made sure that there would be no games lost due to the clear lack of ability, effort, and preparation by a “backup” quarterback who did his best to lose a game when his name was called. Heck, I even liked his use of timeouts in the second half (the challenge wasn’t awful and he used one on a key 3rd down where his defense was not ready). He has yet to save his status as NFL head coach, but he’s given himself a chance with this win. - Sadaraine
It’s no secret how impressive Javonte Williams has been in his rookie season. As a runner he is one of the toughest guys to tackle. What we saw against the Chargers was the next step in his evolution. He led the Broncos in receiving. It was just 3 catches, but he is dangerous with the ball in his hands no matter where he gets it. His 42 yard catch and run down the sidelines put his agility and power on display. Add a 9-yard rushing TD in there for good measure, and the rookie had another big time game for the Broncos. - Adam Malnati
Bridgewater finds Javonte Williams, who breaks a long run after the catch.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 28, 2021
Chargers rough Teddy up after the pass. pic.twitter.com/PBI71xAtqK
Melvin Gordon III
While a lot of the hype is over rookie running back Javonte Williams - and for good reason - it’s important to note that in the Broncos’ strong rushing attack Sunday, Melvin Gordon III put up 83 yards with a 4.9 per carry average and a long run of 16. In today’s NFL, it’s rarely the best approach to have one bell cow back taking most of the snaps and be able to survive the season. For the first time in years, the Broncos have a true 1-2 punch in the running game and two backs whose styles complement each other in the offense. The Broncos had 147 yards on the ground and 155 yards passing. It was finally a balanced offense with a balanced running game led by two very good running backs. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
Baron Browning gets a game ball from me. He showed off his ability to close to the ball against the Chargers, notching 7 combined tackles- the 3rd highest tackle production on the team. But his real wow play was an extremely athletic pass breakup. Browning made a full extension leap to bat a Justin Herbert pass to the grass well short of its intended receiver, stymieing the Chargers on 3rd down.
The rookie linebacker’s future looks bright if he can keep pulling off games like this one, especially considering the ground he’s had to very quickly make up after missing so much time on the practice field and a big chunk of the season. I’m already itching to see what Browning will do in 2022 after a full training camp to prepare & a good pile of experience to build on. - Taylor Kothe
Surtain is the first Broncos rookie ever with a pick-six in a multi-interception game. The pick-six especially is giving Broncos Country flashbacks to Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. - Ian St. Clair
Shades of the past...#PS2 #Champ #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/4D9CD5t5Hq— Ryan Greene (@RyanCBS4) November 28, 2021
The box score stats aren’t going to pop off the screen, but if you go back and watch Jonathon Cooper’s battles with Rashawn Slater you’ll come away over the moon about the Broncos’ seventh round rookie. For weeks now there’s been an ongoing discussion that Slater is having the best rookie season by any tackle since Joe Thomas, and Cooper found ways to generate pressure while also drawing a hold. Considering the fact we could see this matchup twice a year for the next decade, it was very encouraging. - Joe Rowles
The Broncos had almost as many rushing yards (147) as passing yards (155) yesterday - admittedly that was against the worst run defense in the league, but when you effectively run the ball, you have to give credit to the offensive line. This was an offensive line that was banged-up to begin with and got more so during the game. We began the game down three starters on the OL and lost Calvin Anderson and Dalton Risner about one third of the way into the game. Quinn Bailey played his first ever meaningful offensive snaps in the NFL and was not a complete disaster like some of the backup offensive tackles we have had in the past. Quinn Meinerz continued his bull-dozing run blocks.
For the team to still score three offensive touchdowns with a backup at four of the five offensive line spots and a third stringer at one of them, I have to give my game ball to the offensive line. It may not have been pretty (plenty of runs got stopped for gains of one or two yards and many times our RBs still had to avoid tacklers in the backfield), but it was effective. I’ll take effective over pretty seven days a week and twice on Sunday. - Joe Mahoney