Consistent Defense Saves The Day
In a game where the Denver offense would stall, spit, and sputter, the Denver defense performed in playoff fashion, and ensured that the Broncos winning streak continued.
It wasn't the prettiest win by the Manning-led Broncos. An early interception--returned for a touchdown--would give the Chargers their first points of the game, and their only points of the first half. The Broncos possessed the ball on offense ten times in the first half, but only managed 17 points. Besides the interception, the Broncos also had a fumble (in field goal range), a missed 55 yard field goal, and four punts.
Still, the Broncos had a 17-7 half-time lead, thanks to the relentless efforts of the defense. On the nine San Diego offensive possessions of the first half, the Broncos defense forced eight punts and an interception. The Chargers failed to convert every third down of the half.
Unfortunately, the Broncos offense would continue its hit-or-miss behavior in the second half. Fortunately, the consistent defense would continue to keep the heat on Rivers and Co.
After a successful onside kick to start the second half, the Chargers put themselves in position to get back in the game, but the defense held them to three-and-out. Unfortunately, the punt put the Broncos on their own two-yard-line and the Chargers defense would sack Manning for a safety, pulling them to within eight points. But the Denver defense made sure that it ended right there.
While the Chargers would score two more touchdowns in the half--one of them during garbage time near the end of the game--the defense would force three turnovers, courtesy of two fumbles and an interception. The Broncos offense would score on two of these opportunities, while the third turnover ended the game.
After disposing of the Chargers for the second time, the Broncos extended their streak to 5 games, giving the team a comfortable 3 game lead over the second place AFC West team, along with the head-to-head tiebreaker. With only six games left to the season, it's pretty difficult to see how the Broncos won't win the division for the second year in a row.
But it wouldn't have happened if the defense hadn't saved the day.
The good stuff:
*Peyton Manning - yeah, I know he's been listed nearly every week, but he keeps earning it. After the tipped pass that resulted in a pick-six in the first quarter, Manning threw for three touchdowns. Isn't it refreshing to know that the Broncos have a quarterback who can overcome mistakes when they happen?
Today's game is the fifth straight where the Broncos scored 30 points or more--all of them wins. His three touchdowns brings his career total to 423, moving him ahead of Dan Marino for second place all-time, and behind Brett Favre's 508.
*Defense - Once again, the whole defense delivered. As a team, they produced four sacks, three fumbles, two interceptions, and a blocked punt. They kept the Chargers from converting a third down until near the end of the third period--going 0-for-11 until then--and allowed only three out of sixteen for the game. If you'll remember, the Broncos weren't playing that well in this vital area prior to the bye week. They held the Chargers to 53 net yards rushing, and 224 net yards passing.
*Running game - Until he got hurt, McGahee had regained some of his form, going 55 yards on seven carries (7.85 ypc). With the help of the backups, the team managed 133 net rushing yards. As a unit, the Broncos running game 5.3 average on 25 carries.
Brandon Stokley/Jacob Tamme/Joel Dreessen - Manning spread the ball around--throwing to nine different receivers--but these three accounted for about half of the team's passing production. Each had four receptions--they totalled 136 yards out of Manning's 270--and Stokley caught one for a touchdown. While not the "big names" we see on other teams for players at their positions, they played as good as anyone in the league.
The not-so-good stuff:
*Turnovers - One interception and two fumbles. Manning's interception went for a pick six and a fumble by Lance Ball was recovered by the Chargers. The other fumble was courtesy of Trindon Holliday--not the first of the season for him, but when you consider he only had three punt returns in the game, that's one fumble too many.
The team continues to defy the odds, but they simply must find a way to bring an end to this problem before the playoffs, or they could be one-and-done.
Matt Prater - I won't go too hard on him--it was a 55 yard attempt afterall. But it was a miss, so let's hope he got it out of his system with this one.
Red Zone Efficiency - Only went 1-for-4 today. Considering that one of those opportunities was a first-and-goal to go after a Woodyard interception, the offense was less than stellar in this vital catagory.
Pass protection - I already mentioned this above, but Manning was under way-to-much pressure today. The team surrendered three sacks, including one for a safety. Manning may be close to 100% in his recovery, but too many games like this is not a good thing.
Offensive player-of-the-game: Peyton Manning - Going in to today's game, the Broncos were 2nd in scoring (30.1), 3rd in yards (394.2), and 5th in passing yards (288.9). His three touchdowns in this game is the sixth time he managed that feat this season. The Broncos are 5-1 in those games.
Defensive player-of-the-game: Von Miller - He had three sacks in today's game, the fourth multi-sack game of the season. Two of his sacks resulted in fumbles. He now has an NFL-leading 13 sacks for the season.
Honorable mention: Elvis Dumerville and Wesley Woodyard - Doom wasn't even a sure thing for today's game, but he got a sack and a forced fumble today--a great effort. Woodyard's interception is his third of the season and the Broncos converted it to points.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. - Albert Einstein
He is the most popular player we have traded. - Champ Bailey on Jay Cutler