While the 24-17 final score won't indicate it, this win was as good as a blowout.
The Chargers couldn't score until the fourth quarter; when they did, it took some pretty fluky stuff to get them into the game. Some garbage zone, blown coverages, and an onside kick later, the game narrowed.
But let's face it, the Chargers came into the game wanting to attack the edges on first and second down. The signing of Jeremy Mincey, which may turn out to be one of the best signings of the year, made this team stronger outside the tackles. And while you may not believe it, Nate Irving and Shaun Phillips both set the edge as well as Von Miller could have.
The result--the Chargers couldn't move the ball until they had to, and even then, it took a lot of random luck for them to think they had any hope, which, of course, they never did.
Next week, a lot will be written about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady--enough, in fact, to make your eyes and ears bleed. But the real story for the Broncos this playoffs is the way they are stopping the run and boldy going where they haven't' been since 2005: the AFC Championship.
- You knew it was going to be a good day for the Broncos defense when they were getting pressure on Rivers with only three pass rushers. Also, mistakes like letting Mincey untouched to the quarterback will get you into some trouble. The Iron Sheik had it about right.
- I noticed one of the ways the Broncos reduced Eric Weddle’s ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage was to split Julius Thomas wide. It was a great move by Adam Gase and Manning. It also gave Thomas some space with which to work.
- Getting the Chargers to burn two timeouts in the first quarter was cackingly delicious. One was due to the screaming frenzy of Broncos fans. The other was simply the Chargers’ inability to decipher Manning’s audible on third-and-short. The Broncos converted anyway.
- Stupid Chargers. Hard counts are for kids. Do you suppose Peyton was studying a bit of film this week? Also, “Omaha” means something, but it apparently doesn’t mean, “Guys, we're going on one.”
- Manny Ramirez played four times as good as he played in Week 15 (he never got caught leaning), but the player of the game for my money was Pro Bowler Louis Vasquez. My guess is that he will grade out +3 or +4 on PFF’s grading system. Every time Vasquez and Ramirez executed a double-team on the nose guard, I wept at the beauty of the world.
- I expected as much from Knowshon Moreno, but to see Montee Ball run with his pads low to the ground made me excited for the future of the Broncos’ running game—next week and next year.
- Comedy gold = the face of Phil Rivers when his receiver drops a surefire first down.
- It’s been awhile since the Broncos needed the advanced services of Trindon Holliday. Even though Holliday’s 105-yard kickoff return was called back, he gave the Broncos good field position several times.
- Props to the Broncos wide receivers for some hellacious blocking in the game—underappreciated but extremely valuable.
- Julius Thomas’s catch with three minutes to go was a perfect call and an even better throw. The placement was precisely the weak spot in a Cover 2 shell. Even better, though: the Broncos didn’t run the ball or play not to lose.
- What’s the difference between Week 15 and this game? The Broncos set the edge and the Chargers couldn’t execute their game plan. Nate Irving, Jeremy Mincey, and Shaun Phillips should be singled out, but guys like Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, and Terrance Knighton were no slouches. Hell, Mitch Unrein can join the party, while we’re at it.
- Malik Jackson almost became the new Nate Irving with his facemask on San Diego's opening drive. Luckily, the Broncos defense was getting pressure with three- and four-man fronts, so it only cost the Broncos a few more plays.
- Turnovers are big—in fact, they are about the only thing that slows down the greatest offense in the history of the NFL. That being said, the referees completely blew the call on the Julius Thomas fumble. I was so visibly irritated by the call, I punched my Tim Tebow bobblehead.
- Speaking of turnovers, a bad throw by Peyton Manning led to a fluke interception to end the half. It’s really too bad, given the Broncos would have gone up by at least 17. A three-score deficit probably makes Rivers cry at halftime.
- As Brian Dawkins said, the turf monster is killing Eric Decker. In other news, Jessie James is getting ready to kill some random Broncos fans for a hint of any negativity.
- How serious were the Broncos about avoiding turnovers? They took Trindon Holliday off of punt returns. I like the move as a precaution, but I hope it’s only an issue due to wind and not due to Holliday’s long-term effectiveness.
- Coming out of a timeout, you can’t like a Julius Thomas false start.
- Wes Welker drops passes, we knew that coming into the season. But that makes it no less damn annoying.
- I almost can’t fault Matt Prater for missing a field goal in the brutality of today’s wind. Still, three points is three points. Worse, though, as Ted pointed out during our in-game-chat, were the three preceding play calls. At that point in the game, a 20-0 lead is hardly more valuable than 17-0. Aggressive playcalling was in order.
- I don’t mean to be—well, mean, I suppose—but when Quentin Jammer replaced Chris Harris in the secondary, things started getting ugly. The Chargers immediately began to attack him. On the big gain to Eddie Royal, Jammer looked lost at sea with no life preserver. The big gain on 4th-and-5 was pretty bad, too, but David Bruton did the actual crime. Jammer was responsible for the outside-middle zone. Bruton got caught pattern reading when he should have been playing his zone. It gave me a flashback of Rahim Moore, but only for a moment. Then I realized the Broncos were still going to win. I will say this, though: Please, God, let Chris Harris be okay for next week’s game.
- Eric Weddle held Julius Thomas so often, I’m surprised he wasn’t keeping a pack of Trojans in his uniform.
The Who The Heck Knows
- Now what are the toolsheds at ESPN going to say - that Denver has run the ball with equal vigor to the Patriots? Is Denver suddenly a running team now?
- One good outcome of the Broncos' win is that we no longer have to see pictures of Phil Rivers in a bolo tie. Actually, let me be even more specific: we no longer have to see Phil Rivers, period.
- Ken Whisenhunt tried to brush aside the suggestion that interviewing for three head-coaching vacancies on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday would affect his ability to call the game for the Chargers. It’s bullshit, of course. Compare that approach to Adam Gase’s.
- Wes Welker can exact some revenge against the Patriots next week, but remember, the Chargers are the team that cut Welker after one game.
- At this point, I hope whatever is ailing Derek Wolfe doesn’t threaten his career. Just get healthy, big guy.
- How’s this for motivation? According to the guys on 104.3 The Fan, Terrance Knighton told them there wasn’t a day in practice the team didn’t hear about the letdown against the Ravens last year.
- Wes Welker’s helmet made me think of RoboCop. Half man. Half machine. All Bronco.
- Matt Prater’s first field-goal attempt was good; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. How can I be so sure? Because it ended up on the scoreboard.
- Vic Lombardi may have worn a bow tie to break the influence of Philip Rivers, but that doesn't mean he's getting laid tonight.
- We’ve always noted that luck and randomness play a large part in football. If luck weren’t a part of the NFL, the Chargers would have been blown out by three scores today.