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Scouting Report: Chargers at Broncos
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Now it counts!
The Los Angeles Chargers take centerstage to start the 2017 season when they visit the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. Kickoff from Sports Authority Field at Mile High is set for 7:20pm PST.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
The Bolts are loaded with offensive playmakers, but the entire football world will be focused on Antonio Gates as the legend looks to make history. With his next TD catch, Gates will singlehandedly own the all-time mark for career touchdowns by a tight end. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Keenan Allen, as he returns from an ACL injury suffered during last season’s opener. On the ground, the team will look to pound it with Melvin Gordon, who turned heads with a Pro Bowl year in 2016. Number 28 carried the rock 254 times for 997 yards and 10 TDs. Of course, Philip Rivers is the straw that stirs the drink. Number 17 completed 349 of 578 attempts (60.4%) for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns. His 33 TD strikes were the second most of his career in a single season, one behind his career-high set in 2008.
On Offense for the Broncos
Former Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy returns to Denver as the team’s offensive coordinator, where Trevor Siemian enters his second season under center. The quarterback completed 289 of 486 passes (59.5%) last season for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for an 84.6 passer rating. His top targets are Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who each surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in 2016. Thomas caught 90 balls for 1,083 and five TDs while Sanders had 79 receptions for 1,032 and five scores. Meanwhile, Jamaal Charles joined Denver from the Kansas City Chiefs, where he joins C.J. Anderson to form a potent one-two punch.
On Defense for the Chargers
Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward have waited 11 months to play alongside one-another, and the pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks lead a Chargers secondary that features a new starting safety in Tre Boston. Meanwhile, a lot of focus will be on Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, as the pair is expected to be one of the top pass rushing duos in the NFL.
On Defense for the Broncos
Last year’s fourth ranked defense, which finished the year as the top passing defense in the league, returns largely intact minus Demarcus Ware and T.J. Ward. It’s led by Von Miller, whose 13.5 sacks ranked second in the NFL. Meanwhile, Justin Simmons is thrust into the starting strong safety spot, entering a standout secondary led by cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr.
The Chargers trail the all-time series 64-50-1. The two teams split the season series a year ago with both teams winning at home. The Chargers look for their first win in Denver since 2013. This marks the first time the AFC West rivals meet on Kickoff Weekend since 1994, a 37-34 Chargers win.
By the Numbers
In 2016, the Chargers ranked 14th in total offense (356.8 yards per game), eighth in passing (262.4 ypg), 26th in rushing (94.4 ypg) and ninth in points (25.6). The Broncos ranked 27th total offense (232.1 ypg), 21st in passing (230.0 ypg), 27th in rushing (92.8 ypg) and 22nd in points (20.8).
Defensively, the Bolts ranked 16th in total defense (347.1 ypg), 20th in passing (249.2 ypg), 10th in rushing (97.9 ypg) and 29th in points allowed (26.4). Denver ranked fourth in total defense (316.1 ypg), first in passing (185.8 ypg), 28th in rushing (130.3 ypg) and fourth in points allowed (18.6).
Milestones on the Horizon
Antonio Gates has 111 career touchdown catches, tied with Tony Gonzalez for most all-time by a tight end. Gates will set a new record for tight ends with his next touchdown catch.
Philip Rivers’ next 300-yard passing game will be the 52nd of his career, which will set a new franchise record.
Rivers heads into 2017 with 45,833 career passing yards, 12th all-time. He’ll need just 401 yards to pass Vinny Testaverde (46,233) for 11th.
Rivers and Gates have combined for 84 touchdowns during their careers, third-most all-time between a quarterback and receiver/tight end. With one more, Rivers and Gates will move into a tie for second with Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
Noteworthy vs. the Broncos
On Oct. 23, 2014 at Denver, Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes to raise his career total to 241, passing Len Dawson (239) for 19th all-time. That same day, Rivers passed Johnny Unitas (2,830) for 25th all-time in career completions. On Dec. 14, 2014 against Denver, Rivers threw his 248th career touchdown pass, passing Boomer Esiason (247) for 17th all-time.
Philip Rivers attempted 47 passes against the Broncos on Oct. 30, 2016, and in the process moved past Dan Fouts (5,604) for the most pass attempts in franchise history.
During the Chargers’ Oct. 23, 2014 game at Denver, Antonio Gates became the Chargers’ all-time leading receiver, surpassing Lance Alworth (9,854 yards). He passed Alworth on a 31-yard catch to the Broncos’ two-yard line on a 3rd-and-20 that set up a touchdown which tied the game, 7-7. He also had two second-half touchdowns in that game. Later, in the season’s second meeting on Dec. 14, 2014, Gates had his 10th touchdown catch of the season, joining New England’s Rob Gronkowski as the only tight ends in NFL history with four 10-touchdown seasons.
Throughout his career, Gates has faced the Broncos 24 times, logging 93 catches for 1,108 yards and 10 touchdowns.
On Dec. 14, 2013, Jahleel Addae had a regular-season, career-high 10 tackles against the Broncos. Four weeks later when the teams met in the Divisional Playoffs, Addae had postseason career-high eight stops and a forced fumble.
Safety Adrian Phillips recorded his first NFL interception in the 2015 season finale off the Broncos’ Brock Osweiler.
In the 2015 season finale at Denver, Tyrell Williams caught his first NFL pass for an 80-yard touchdown at Sports Authority Field. It tied for the 11th-longest catch in franchise history and it was the longest first-catch by any player in franchise history.
Melvin Gordon led the Chargers with a then career-high 155 yards from scrimmage on Oct. 30, 2016, including 111 yards rushing. He became the first running back since Week 2 of the 2015 season to rush for more than 100 yards against Denver’s defense.
Drew Kaser averaged 57.0 yards per punt in the 2016 finale between the two teams, tied for third-highest in a game in franchise history, on five punts, including a season-long 62 yarder.
Playing for Cleveland in 2015, Travis Benjamin had a career-high nine catches and 117 yards in a game against the Broncos.
Nose tackle Brandon Mebane had three solo tackles in Seattle’s win over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Playing for the New York Jets in 2011, Matt Slauson recovered a fumble in the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn played in Denver with Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway (1997-1999) while Senior Advisor Gary Kubiak was the Denver offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. They were Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII Champions.
In 1993, Anthony Lynn played with Broncos Offensive Line Coach Jeff Davidson in Denver.
Lynn went on to coach in Denver from 2000-02.
T Russell Okung played in Denver during the 2016 season.
Defensive Backs Coach Ron Milus coached in Denver from 2000-02 and 2011-12.
Assistant Offensive Line Coach James Cregg coached in Denver from 2014-16.
Linebackers Coach Richard Smith coached in Denver from 1992-96 and 2011-14.
G Michael Schofield played in Denver from 2014-17 after being selected by the Broncos in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was the starting right tackle in Denver’s Super Bowl 50 win.
Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy was head coach of the Chargers from 2013-16.
Tight Ends Coach Geep Chryst coached for the Chargers from 1999-2000.
Offensive Line Coach Jeff Davidson coached offensive line for the Chargers in 2016 under McCoy.
Los Angeles RB Austin Ekeler is from Eaton, Colorado
Chargers C Matt Slauson is from Colorado Springs, Colorado
Broncos RB CJ Anderson is from Vallejo, California
Denver LB Todd Davis from Lancaster, California
Broncos TE Virgil Green is from Tulare, California
Broncos G Cameron Hunt is from Corona, California
Denver CB Marcus Rios is from Elk Grove, California
Broncos WR Hunter Sharp is from Palmdale, California
Denver RB Devonte Booker is from Sacramento, California
Denver T Kyle Peko is from La Habra, California
Broncos Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Johnnie Lynn is from Los Angeles, California
ESPN/KABC – Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Rex Ryan (analyst) and Sergio Dipp (sideline)
KFI-AM 640 – Matt “Money” Smith (play-by-play), Nick Hardwick (analyst) and Shannon Farren (sideline)
Spanish Radio: KFWB – AM 980 - Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Tony Alvarez (analyst)
Chargers radio broadcasts throughout the season will be able to be heard across nine radio stations from Southern California to Nevada. Fans can listen in English on KGB-FM and KLSD AM (San Diego), KNWZ (Palm Springs), KNWH-FM (Yucca Valley), KRLV-FM (Las Vegas), KRAK-AM (Victorville/Hesperia), KATY-FM (San Bernardino) and KPLY-AM (Reno). Spanish broadcasts can be heard on XHFG-FM (San Diego).