Not a lot of people think the San Diego Chargers can keep up with the Denver Broncos. Not me, I think this team can go score for score and get a few key stops against Broncos. How?
Throw On First Down
Let's do everyone's favorite game: Blind Player Comparisons! The numbers below are two quarterbacks stats on first down, including runs and sacks.
Player A: 164 plays, 1326 total yards, 8.1 yards per play, 10 touchdowns and 6 turnovers
Player B: 133 plays, 1180 total yards, 8.9 yards per play, 10 touchdowns and 3 turnovers
Player A is Peyton Manning. Player B is Philip Rivers. There has been no better quarterback in the NFL on first down than Rivers, and it isn't even close. Let Rivers off the chain on first down, and let him tear the Denver defense apart.
Run Mathews More, Especially in Power Situations
Running on the Denver Broncos has not been easy this season. According to the good people at Football Outsiders, Denver is ranked 6th in run defense. Their defensive line ranks first in Adjusted Line Yards, and doesn't allow many yards in the open field. Their one weakness is in power running situations, where they are ranked merely 14th in the league.
Well, what do you know? The Chargers have a solid power running back in Ryan Mathews! When facing 3rd and short, give the rock to Mathews. If McCoy and Whisenhunt are feeling really crazy, they might give the ball to him on the goal line as well.
Get Defensive Stops Early
I've watched a lot of Broncos games lately, and I've noticed that Peyton Manning seems to be trying to force big plays when the offense is stopped for a series or two. When the Colts beat the Broncos in Week 7, there was a period during the 2nd and 3rd quarters when the Broncos only attained 1 first down in 6 offensive series. Peyton Manning was clearly frustrated after the first two 3-and-outs, and was forcing throws into coverage down the field.
While the defense is clearly not good, it is good enough to have stopped the excellent Colts offense over and over again, holding them to 3 field goals and no touchdowns. If this defense can get a couple of stops, Peyton Manning will take himself out of the game for a little while, giving the Chargers offense opportunities to build a lead.
The Broncos have followed a pattern of focusing on shorter routes early on, then moving on to deeper throws. The Chargers should try to focus on those shorter routes, and have the linebackers ready to jump on a slant route for a possible interception.
Employ David Strategies
This means throwing out nearly every conservative impulse Mike McCoy might have. If it is 4th and 2 or shorter anywhere on the field, the Chargers should be going for it. And running Mathews instead of Woodhead, please. The Chargers should also go for it on 4th and 5 or shorter past their own 40 but still out of field goal range. This game is a good opportunity to attempt a surprise onside kick or dust off the old fake punt.
If the Chargers are going to make the playoffs, a home game against a tough divisional opponent is absolutely a must-win. It is time to give the Broncos the Kitchen Sink treatment.
Use Players Appropriately
Let's hope that this lesson was learned after last week's goal line fiasco. Mathews is the power back for this team, use Mathews in power situations. Speaking of using running backs appropriately, the best use for Ronnie Brown is on the bench. Barring injuries, he should not be seeing any playing time for this team.
On defense, Eric Weddle should not be lining up at linebacker. He is going to be needed as a safety for this game. The Chargers corners are best played in press man coverage, and Pagano should try doing that as a change of pace. While Marcus Gilchrist has been improving as safety lately, the Chargers may be best served having him cover the slot receiver this game. If Johnny Patrick or Richard Marshall are tasked with that job, it will likely mean a big day for Wes Welker.
The Chargers can win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. By focusing on their strength, they should be able to more than hold their own blow for blow in this battle of offensive titans.