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Five Lessons from the Broncos Game
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Here are five lessons we learned from the 17-3 loss to the Denver Broncos:
1. No Time for Rivers to Roll – The Bolts knew it would be difficult facing the NFL’s number one defense that also ranks first in sacks. Philip Rivers has been at the top of his game all year long, but against the Broncos, he had no time to operate. Denver totaled four sacks and hit Rivers 11 times overall, causing him to post his lowest QB rating of the year (57.1). Overall, number 17 completed only 18 of 35 attempts (51%) for 202 yards and an interception resulting in a pick-six. Among other deficiencies on offense, Head Coach Mike McCoy noted how pressure on Rivers incapacitated the Chargers:
“The pressure on Philip (Rivers), that is something we’ve (previously) done an outstanding job of. We knew it was a good football team but we have got to do a better job there. We knew it was going to be a challenge. He (Philip Rivers) got hit too many times and it was third and long a lot. We got negative plays there. You can’t have that.”
2. Defense Kept Bolts in Game – After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, the Chargers defense buckled down and played “lights out” according to the offense. They gave up only 10 points on the day, and adding in the pick-six scored by Danny Trevathan, the 17 points surrendered were the fewest on the season. The Bolts’ performance is even more impressive considering the poor field position they had to defend for most of the game. Turnovers by the offense put their back up against the wall, but they forced a trio of three-and-outs, sacked Brock Osweiler to force a long field goal that Brandon McManus missed and picked off the QB in the end zone when Jason Verrett came down with the interception guarding Emmanuel Sanders. Giving up big plays has cost the defense all year long, but they only gave up three plays over 20 yards against the Broncos. Two of them came on that opening drive when John Pagano’s unit made Denver earn every yard. After the game, Orlando Franklin explained how the offense lamented their inability to cash in on a strong day by the defense:
“It was really frustrating. It felt like we had a lot of opportunities. The defense played lights out most of the game, and played well enough for us to win. They held them to only 10 points. We’ve just got to do better. We have to get each person, all 11, on the same page doing our job. That’s the unique thing about football. It’s the ultimate team sport, so if you’ve got 10 people out there doing their job and one person not, it has the potential to be disastrous.”
3. Turnovers + Penalties = Losing Combination - It’s hard to overcome losing the turnover battle or committing penalties. Failing in both of those areas makes it nearly impossible, which is why the Chargers came out on the short end of a 17-3 decision. The Bolts coughed the ball up three times and put the ball on the ground on two other occasions but thankfully were able to recover. Rivers’ interception resulted in a 25- yard pick-six, while Malcom Floyd fumbled at the Denver 26 and Melvin Gordon at the Broncos’ 42. Despite Gordon’s strong day rushing the ball as he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, McCoy said he pulled him after losing a second ball that bounced out of bounds:
“After he put the second ball on the ground I did take him out. You can’t put the ball on the ground. You're not going to play if you put the ball on the ground."
Meanwhile, the Chargers committed eight penalties for 72 yards while the Broncos were flagged on three for 17. Six of those penalties came on offense, constantly putting them in tenuous situations. Joe Barksdale explained how infuriating it was to keep shooting themselves in the foot:
“It’s frustration. At the end of the day it’s execution. Penalties. It just seems like when we got going today, one thing or another led to the momentum being stopped.”
4. Injuries Continue to Mount– The Chargers have been one of the most injured teams in the NFL this year, and that didn’t change on Sunday. Entering Week 13, San Diego had lost 136 manpower games due to injury, including 11 players on the Reserve-Injured list. Against the Broncos, four players left the game due to injury and did not return, including Dontrelle Inman, Brandon Flowers, Joe Barksdale and Stevie Johnson. In fact, Inman (neck) and Flowers (knee) were carted off within minutes of each other in the first quarter. Thankfully, McCoy after the game said things are trending in a positive direction for Inman:
“The initial evaluation and everything came out negative. They are going to run some further tests (then) I’ll have a better answer for you. But everything is looking good as of now, and they are going to run a few more tests….He was moving his hand when I was out there with him. Before they took him away he was moving his hands and his feet. They asked him to move a few things and do some things, and he responded to all of those things, which was great.”
5. A Fighting Mindset - Little has gone right in the Bolts’ 3-9 season to date, but that doesn’t mean the Chargers are giving up. McCoy vows to keep on fighting and plugging away to right the ship. That mindset has been embraced by the players, who use the same term when talking about how they approach the remaining four games on the schedule. Emerging as a leader in his second season, Jason Verrett, best summed up the team’s attitude:
“We’re 3-9 and we’re just fighting for pride. Every game we’re going into we’re just going to put up a fight…Right now, we are fighting for pride and there’s no need to keep our heads down. We have to go into next week and get ready for Kansas City. I’m upset about the loss more than anything. At the end of the day it’s a team game. Next week we are going against another good team in Kansas City. We have to throw this one away and get ready for Kansas City.”