Justin Edmonds - Getty Images
If the San Diego Chargers want to beat the Denver Broncos, they can start by running their offense at Denver Broncos LB Joe Mays.
Story time. Ready?
Last weekend, during the day games, I was driving south on the 405 (and then the 5) through Los Angeles and on my way home. I made it home in plenty of time to catch the Chargers/Saints game, obviously, but it limited what I could watch/listen to. There is no Red Zone Channel for the radio, after all. So I was stuck listening to the Broncos/Patriots game (which was the game I was hoping would be on the radio), and I was stuck listening to the Broncos' announcers calling the game.
Here's what I realized after listening to these announcers for 2+ hours:
- They love Peyton Manning. Love. They have incredible faith in him, Elway-ian faith in him, despite the fact that he hasn't yet done much for Denver
- They are absolutely terrified of Joe Mays. Between the play-by-play guy and the color commentator, I lost count of how many times they said "Joe Mays is a solid run-stopping Linebacker, but not the guy you want in pass coverage." This was not a bad game for Mays, this is a flawed LB that has lost the faith of the fans and those associated with the team.
Despite having a very good pass rush, the Broncos have given up 31 points to their last two opponents not-named the Oakland Raiders. The teams they've beaten (Steelers, Raiders) are or were imbalanced on offense. The teams they've lost to (Patriots, Falcons, Texans) beat them with balance. The reason for that is players like Joe Mays, who should be a backup/specialist but instead of getting 90%+ of the snaps every game for the Broncos.
The Chargers can focus on Mays and beat him. They can get him in coverage against Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates and Ronnie Brown. Then, when he's on his heels trying to cover them, they can run right at him like the Patriots did (to the tune of 251 rushing yards last week). It's not the big plays that beat this Denver defense, it's finding a weakness (like Mays) and exploiting it for 5+ yards per play.