Skip to main content

Chargers Official Site | Los Angeles Chargers -

5 Final Thoughts: Inside the Pivotal Bolts-Broncos Matchup in Week 14


The Chargers are 5-7 and host the Broncos (6-6) on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of Week 14:

1. An elimination game?

The playoffs might as well already be here for the Chargers and Broncos.

With neither team above .500, the numbers show that Sunday's matchup is essentially an elimination game.

According to the New York Times' **playoff simulator**, the Chargers currently hold a 7 percent chance to make the dance.

A Bolts win doubles those odds to 14 percent, while a loss drops them to just 2 percent.

Denver, meanwhile, currently holds 33-percent odds to make the playoffs. A win moves the Broncos to 51 percent and a loss plummets them to just 16 percent.

So, yeah, there's a lot riding on this game.

"12-out-of-10," Derwin James, Jr. said when asked about how important this game is.

"Let's go. 12-out-of-10, division game," James added. "I feel like they count as two games. It's a division game and we really need to win this game."

Morgan Fox added: "I think every game for us is a must win. That's the mindset we need to have … we can't think of anything else."

The Chargers are looking for their fourth straight home win against Denver. But the results at SoFi Stadium so far this season have been frustrating, as a 2-4 home record includes three losses by three points or less.

"It's just about finishing, we need to finish," Fox said. "I know we've probably lost by two or three points, so we just need to finish the game."

2. Stop the run

The Broncos still employ one of the league's biggest names at quarterback in Russell Wilson.

But Denver's recent success of five wins in six games has mostly been fueled by the ground game.

"Over the last six weeks, they've been in the top three or four in the league in terms of run rate. They make a conscious effort to get the backs involved," said Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley.

"The RPO game is an extension of the run game. They do a really good job. Those backs are really good," Ansley later added. "The O-line is physical. We have our hands full this week. We're definitely looking forward to the challenge."

Sure enough, Denver is third in rushing percentage (45.1) from Weeks 7 to 8, and then Weeks 10-13. (The Broncos had a Week 12 bye).

Denver is also first in rushing attempts (197) and sixth in both rushing yards (758) and yards after contact (494) in that timespan.

"They're definitely trying to place their identity in the run game. You watch their last couple games and they definitely lead off with the run," Fox said. "They have their lead calls and where they want to make their money."

James added: "That all comes down to being physical. You have to come out and you have to be ready to play. Whether it's first down, second down or third down, whatever down — we have to be ready. And we have to be ready to get off the field."

The Chargers currently rank 17th in rushing yards allowed per game (113.8) and are 21st in rushing yards allowed per play (4.28).

Check out the best photos of the Bolts from Thursday at Hoag Performance Center.

3. Competition at RB

Speaking of the run game…

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said this week that the Bolts could present a different look at running back against Denver.

"Competition for carries is going to be something that you can see happening. I think you've seen it on defense, competing for opportunities," Staley said.

"We're going to keep exploring, making adjustments, so that we can find that rhythm that I've been talking about," Staley added. "That's certainly one way to do it."

Austin Ekeler leads the Chargers in attempts (126), yards (446) and touchdowns (four). He is averaging 3.54 yards per carry.

Joshua Kelley has produced 94 carries for 376 yards (4.0) and two scores.

Could we see a different workload Sunday?

"I think there's definitely competition for a lot of different situations for us," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. "I think that's important to keep the competition alive throughout the season.

"I feel great about where those guys are going. I think we've had an awesome week," Moore added. "I think Austin is going to play great this week, Josh will play great. I think both of those guys are going to respond in a really positive way. I'm excited for them."

Denver's defense ranks last in the NFL in both rushing yards allowed per game (149.7) and rushing yards allowed per play (5.19).

Staley on Friday said that he was looking forward to seeing how that group plays against Denver.

"All the guys practiced well this week," Staley said. "You guys will see it on Sunday. I was pleased with the way that all of our guys competed in practice this week."

4. Win the TO battle

The Chargers winning the turnover battle in Sunday's sloppy conditions was a key reason why they won the game.

Entering Week 14, the Bolts are tied for 10th with a turnover margin of plus-4. The Broncos are one better at plus-5.

Denver's rollercoaster season — the Broncos started 1-5 before ripping off a five-game win streak — has been defined by turnovers.

In the first six games, Denver lost the takeaway margin 11 to 6. The Broncos then won it 16 to 3 during their win streak.

And then came Sunday's loss to Houston in which Denver lost it 3 to 0. In short, takeaways tell the story for the Broncos this season.

"Turnovers have been a huge thing," Moore said. "Obviously, we've seen the big sway of when they win, when they lose, how this five-game winning streak occurred.

"Turnovers are the big thing. You have to protect the football. They do a phenomenal job of emphasizing it. They have playmakers," Moore added. "They have guys with ball skill on the back end that have played a ton of football and play really well together. It's a challenge. They're definitely playing a confident game right now."

Justin Herbert added: "Coach Staley brought up in the team meeting room [on Wednesday] … focusing on that. They're causing turnovers and they're doing a good job of protecting the ball. That's something that we have to go into this game having a good mindset about it."

5. Erickson earning trust

The Chargers wide receiver room has been depleted once again by injuries.

A year ago, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both missed significant time. This season, Williams was lost for the season in Week 3. And Joshua Palmer has been on Injured Reserve since Week 9.

The Chargers opened Palmer's 21-day practice window this week. He was limited all week and was listed as out for Sunday.

Enter Alex Erickson, who has stepped up in a big way in recent weeks.

"Alex is an awesome guy," Herbert said. "He's a great teammate and he knows exactly what he's doing. He's going to fight out there.

"He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time," Herbert added. "He's one of those guys that I trust going out there, running the routes. He's quick, he's athletic and he's able to win 1-on-1 matchups."

Erickson has three catches for 52 yards this season, but his lone reception against New England iced the game in the fourth quarter.

Erickson, who was added to the team in late August, said this week that he's tried to keep it simple this season.

"It's hard to replace a guy like Mike Williams and Josh Palmer, so it's kind of has to be by committee," Erickson said. "If Keenan is going to get more, then it's up to us to fill that void and do the best that we can. I think it's important to know your strengths and know who you are.

"No one is going to come in and be Mike Williams, but just playing to your strengths, not trying to do anything out of the ordinary and just make the plays when they're there," Erickson added. "I think if you keep it simple like that, it doesn't become overwhelming and you can go out there and play to your abilities."

Bolt Up!

Secure your Chargers Mini Plan today! Click here to learn more.

Related Content

From Our Partners