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Broncos vs Chargers: The No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos won the day with new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Here my thoughts, opinions, and analysis of the game that was won while their playoff hopes slipped away.

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

First off, I’m happy to see our team get another win under its belt. Sean Payton mentioned after the game how important it was for this team to get to 9 wins. That one game is going to be the difference between being a winning and a losing team. We’re 8-8 at the end of the season and that’s the best we’ve seen in Broncos Country for a long time.

What struck me most while watching this game was seeing how clearly lacking this team is in so many ways. Don’t get me wrong: I’m hopeful about the future of this team. Rome was not built in a day and Sean Payton is going to need more than just one offseason reshaping this team before it is going to be able to dig out from under the lack of talent and ability that stems from years of mismanagement and poor drafting.

This game was way harder than it needed to be. The Los Angeles Chargers are a team in absolute shambles that we should have comfortably beat as a better team. Nevertheless, with our limping offense and lackluster defense, we were able to hang on for the one score win.

Offense

One thing I noted offensively was just how much better the game was playing out with a quarterback who understands route concepts, timing, and the quick passing game. Stidham has a long way to go, but you could just see the shadow of a Sean Payton offense beneath all the near misses and just barely off throws.

The team had over 100 yards rushing and 200 passing. They left a lot of passing yards out there on the field as well. The players seemed juiced to execute the plays which begs the question of just how poor was the offense running with Russell Wilson under center.

This tells me that all the hand-wringing in the media about the he said / she said between Payton and Wilson is just nonsense. The players were likely playing harder because they knew they had a different quarterback and thus a different set of opportunities for them to improve. Hindsight tells us Stidham gives this offense a different look with fresh options for the offense to succeed compared to what we’ve been seeing all season long with Wilson at the helm.

Quarterbacks

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Jarrett Stidham isn’t going to win me over as a fan for being our starting quarterback next season with this performance. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do next week with another opportunity. He looked plainly shaky in this start.

But I do give him credit for being willing to throw to the plays being called. He threw several passes into double coverage that I thought were way too risky. He needs to work on moving through his reads when he sees the coverage in place instead of taking his first read. This is the #1 problem I see with inexperienced NFL quarterbacks.

One of the most immediate things he needs to improve on for next week is properly leading his receivers. He consistently threw low or behind his receivers and it cost the offense a ton of production. If he threw even half of his misses on target, we’d likely have another score on the board at the end of the game.

Line

The line did an admiral job blocking in this game with a new quarterback in the backfield. The only knock that seriously needs called out is their back-to-back false starts at the 1 yard line. Those penalties by Quinn Meinerz, Garrett Bolles, and Ben Powers (the later 2 both jumped on the 2nd false start) were the absolute worst time for them to happen.

Running Backs

Denver Broncos vs Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Jaleel McLaughlin once again showed that he’s a better option at running back than our starter, getting 44 yards rushing on 8 attempts. When our plays allow him to utilize his speed, it leads to really good gains both in the run and passing attack. Hopefully this offseason he can get more work in being durable / strong enough to have a heavier workload next season.

Javonte Williams as a starter needs to be put to rest. He once again got the majority of the carries with under 3 ypc (2.7 in this game to be exact). That’s just not good enough. We need a running back with consistent production or explosive production and Williams brings neither of those things at this point in his career.

Receivers

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Lil’Jordan Humphrey showed amazing effort and will to get a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. The guy juked, jived, and artfully shook tackles on the way to the end zone. He’s got work to do in order to be a more consistent performer, but showing 2 really big gains in the game goes a long way to making me want to see more of him next year.

Jerry Jeudy honestly underwhelmed me once again. The hope I brought into this game was that Russell Wilson just wasn’t the kind of quarterback who could properly utilize a guy like Jeudy. But what we saw was that even with a timing based quarterback who should be able to get Jeudy in space, he only hauled in half of his targets with his biggest gain coming on a coverage gaffe by the Chargers that left him wide open.

Defense

They got the job done. It was a solid effort for the defense against a young quarterback and floundering offense.

The biggest thing that stood out to me this week is a continuation of the problems I’ve seen with this defense all season long: the pass rush is mostly nonexistent and our coverage in the middle of the field is poor.

I honestly had maybe two actual notes on players from the defense in this game as it was a snoozer defensively. We mostly had no real pressure created and let the Chargers just derp their plays away while we made sure to defend the run.

Special Teams

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

It was good to see Drew Sanders getting some action in this game and I loved seeing him swallow up the fake punt attempt by the Chargers. I don’t think it was necessarily some supreme effort by his part to make the stop (as the Chargers 1. Gave the play away presnap and 2. Didn’t even handle the snap which threw off the timing of the play completely). That being said, his angle and tackle were text-book giving the runner no opportunity to do anything but get taken down.

Alex Singleton’s play of the year was his recovery on the onside kick. It was very close to being recovered by the Chargers and him making that play sealed the win for the Denver Broncos.

Will Lutz is going to have competition this next offseason. He once again missed a makeable field goal. I don’t necessarily think he’s a bad kicker, but I think we can easily find a better kicker.

Final Thoughts

It is a bummer that things didn’t go the Broncos way for a chance at the playoffs, but the team honestly crapped that away with their loss to New England.

This team is exactly what their record says they are: a middle of the pack NFL team.

That’s an improvement over what we’ve seen in the past few years. If the team can get some roster improvements, they should be able to build off this season for a better opportunity next year. Swallowing that Wilson contract is going to be a bit hard, but the Broncos front office and Sean Payton knew that was a very real possibility before Payton ever signed the dotted line.

We get to play the Raiders to finish the season with a chance at finishing with a winning season for the first time since 2016. It sounds a little sad, but I’m excited to have something to cheer for in the last game of the season.