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Re-watching the San Diego Chargers win over the Denver Broncos

Using NFL Rewind, I went back and rewatched the San Diego Chargers' win over the Denver Broncos and took notes along the way.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As you may be aware, I did not get to watch more of the San Diego Chargers' win over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. I was stuck at work until about halfway through the first quarter, and after fighting traffic and running a few errands, I managed to catch only the fourth quarter.

This morning, I went back and watched the game for the first time, taking notes along the way. If you've ever wondered what it's like to sit next to me while I watch a Chargers game, this is for you. Enjoy!

First Quarter

  • On the first run of the game, the Broncos went right at Manti Te'o and former Charger Louis Vasquez pushed him aside with ease. 6 yard gain.
  • On the second run of the game, the Broncos block everyone that's not Te'o. Manti could've shot the gap and stopped the play in the backfield, but hesitated and ended up catching Moreno from behind after he picked up 5 yards.
  • Peyton Manning sees the Chargers playing Cover 1 with Darrell Stuckey (!) and changes the play to a pass over the middle. Stuckey (predictable) drops way too deep and Julius Thomas beats man-coverage by Reggie Walker for an easy 11 yard gain on 3rd & 5. Stuckey and Jahleel Addae were the safeties on this play, with Marcus Gilchrist and Eric Weddle playing nickel and dime cornerback spots.
  • The touchdown pass was entirely the fault of Richard Marshall. Weddle had centerfield and Donald Butler had underneath coverage (although he was in the process of being picked). Marshall's only job there is to not let Andre Caldwell beat him to the sideline, and that's exactly what he did.


  • If Marshall doesn't bite on Caldwell's inside fake, the worse that happens is a completed pass at the 5 yard line and Weddle stopping Caldwell before he gets into the end zone.
  • By time Ryan Mathews gets to the line of scrimmage, King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart are 3 yards past it with their blocks. Safe to say they won the battle on that play. 7 yard gain.
  • That 11 yard run by Philip Rivers is amazing. He actually ran away from a couple of defensive linemen. I noticed in training camp this year that the team was working on getting Rivers on the run more often and I thought it was a terrible idea, but it has worked like gangbusters this season.
  • I was lucky enough to listen to this game on the radio on Thursday night, and I heard Trent Green breaking down the final play of the 1st quarter. Apparently, it was an option route for Keenan Allen. If he read zone, he was supposed to run a post route, and if he read man coverage he was supposed to run an out route. Well, it was zone, and Rivers read it correctly (and threw the post) but Allen thought it was man and ran an out. Lucky it wasn't disastrous.

Second Quarter

  • On 2nd & 10, Rivers drops the ball off to Danny Woodhead and then does the most arrogant walk I've ever seen for a few steps while watching Danny scamper for 13 yards. Safe to say that Rivers knowsx what happens when Woodhead gets the ball with room to run.
  • Want to know why Ladarius Green was upset about zero catches after the game?

  • That's why. This is a crossing route with Green and Keenan Allen. Allen ends up running into his guy, who ends up picking the man trying to cover Green. If Rivers throws this ball to the left sideline right now, Green has an easy 10 yard catch and room to run. Instead, Rivers focused on the defenders at the line and ended up tossing this one at Le'Ron McClain's feet to avoid the sack. Opportunity missed.
  • Biggest difference from Ryan Mathews this season? Philip Rivers touched on it in his great post game interview. The kid is really decisive this year. His feet are going in the right direction before he's even thought about it. He's relying on pure instincts and it's working.
  • Here's another one I stole from Trent Green's radio broadcast. Watch this trickery:

  • The two guys circled are the Broncos' safeties. The fact that they're both within 10ish yards of the line of scrimmage is a sign that the Broncos are playing Cover 2. With the cornerbacks pushed out near the sidelines, Rivers sees an opportunity to run against a zone defense that is susceptible to runs up the middle.

  • See the free safety running deep just before the ball is snapped? You see, Cover 1 requires the deep safety to be deeper than he would be in Cover 2. The Broncos pretended to be in Cover 2 (a defense that would drop the linebackers and safeties back when the ball is snapped) to get Rivers to change the play, then played Cover 1 (with the linebackers blitzing and the safety playing man-coverage on Antonio Gates). They were baiting Rivers into running the play they wanted him to run, and then calling the perfect defense to stop it. Almost every time they did this, Rivers checked to a run that went for zero yards.
  • Talking trash tonight: Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, D.J. Fluker. This team isn't just confident, they're arrogant. I love it.
  • The (first) Keenan Allen touchdown was beautiful, and it wasn't meant for him at all. It was a follow-route, with Eddie Royal following Antonio Gates across the field. Gates pulled the defense to the corner, and Allen was supposed to pull it down with a drag route to create an opening for Royal in the middle of the field. Instead, the middle linebacker stayed with Royal and left Allen wide open. The rookie did the rest with an awesome leap over a defender on his way to the end zone. Great play by Whisenhunt.
  • Seyi Ajirotutu is worth whatever money he's being paid for his special teams plays alone.
  • Oh my goodness, Weddle jumped about 3 seconds before Peyton threw that pass and was still at the top of his jump when it was released to knock it down. I wonder if Eric can dunk a basketball.
  • For all of the crap we give Whisenhunt for calling draw plays all of the time, I think it's actually been helping the offensive line. I've seen two times now where a pass-rusher slows down to make sure that the draw isn't coming. One of those times it was, and he stopped it. Maybe they're not great running plays, but they might be helping get Rivers more time.
  • Richard Marshall is a much better run defender than Derek Cox. Takes an excellent route that forces the ball back inside.
  • Look at this formation...
  • I could kiss you, John Pagano. It's obviously a Cover 2 from the safeties (Stuckey and Addae), but beyond that Peyton can glean absolutely nothing from this. There are 5 guys at the line of scrimmage, and only 1 has his hand on the ground, and Weddle is running from the left side of the formation to the right side because I'm pretty sure his job is "Do whatever it is that you do, Eric." Or, in football terms, he's the "Joker".
  • In case you're wondering what happened after the snap, Gilchrist blitzed (Butler and Kesier dropped back) and Stuckey snuck up to cover the Decker in man-coverage. Weddle decided to double-cover Demaryius Thomas. Manning was sacked and the Broncos punted.
  • Mathews decisiveness is resulting in a ton of instances of him running past indecisive defenders. Turning 4 yard runs into 9 yard runs because of it.
  • At this point, Rivers is just looking for 1-on-1 matchups with Kayvon Webster and throwing it where his receivers are supposed to be. The kid isn't pushing anyone around and isn't making plays on the ball. Almost difficult to watch.
  • Broncos still faking the Cover 2 and switching to Cover 1. Working even better near the goal line.
  • Gates tried to sit down in a soft part of the defense and it almost resulted in a pick. Can't remember the last time Rivers and Gates weren't on the same page, even for one play.
  • The (second) Keenan Allen touchdown was so easy. Whisenhunt got him in trips with Brown and Royal with the intention of getting him 1-on-1 with Webster. As soon as it happened, Rivers just threw to the area. Webster is no match for this rookie receiver.

Third Quarter

  • Probably to test and see if the Chargers noticed it at halftime, the Broncos run that fake Cover 2 look on the first play of the second half. Rivers checks to a run. -2 yards for Mathews.
  • Rivers had an easy skinny throw to Gates for a big gain, but decided to chuck it up to Royal who is 1-on-1 with Kayvon Webster once again. 14 yard completion. Tries it again the next play, but underthrows it enough that it hits Webster in the helmet.
  • On 3rd & 9, Rivers finds Vincent Brown on Kayvon Webster and throws it up. 32 yard completion. First down. Webster won't be sleeping tonight.
  • For all of his troubles in the pass game, Webster is really great against the run. Kid should be a safety or something.
  • Woodhead sees running lanes that don't exist until after he's through them. Still have no idea how he does that. What a great signing by Tom Telesco.
  • Referee seems to be giving Fluker instructions on how to breathe at Mile High. Rookie working extra hard tonight.
  • After a Broncos timeout, Mathews runs by most of the Broncos defense for a touchdown.
  • Seven guys running towards him and he hasn't even turned the corner yet. This 23 yard touchdown run was a direct result of the Broncos not understanding Ryan's speed or how quickly he made up his mind on where he was headed once he turned the corner. Too many guys were caught flat-footed trying to snag the back of his jersey while he ran by.
  • Great LT flip/teardorp after the touchdown too.
  • Gilchrist is a totally different player near the line of scrimmage. Elite instincts in the first few seconds of the play.
  • I could go over my notes of the long drive in the 3rd quarter, but Kyle already did a better job of that than I could hope to do.
  • It's obvious that the Broncos are trying to target Richard Marshall (Jacob Tamme all but turned on a siren to get Manning's attention when Marshall was on him in man coverage earlier), but the safeties are offering so much over-the-top help that it's resulting in nothing but short passes and good wrap-up tackles by Marshall. Way to play to your player's strengths and hide their weaknesses, Mr. Pagano.
  • Weddle bouncing all over the formation before the play makes him look a lot like Troy Polamalu.

Fourth Quarter

  • Great coverage by Gilchrist, but he blows it by never getting his head around. This is why he was moved away from being a cornerback. 21 yard catch for Decker.
  • Manning knows where the soft spot is in the Cover 2 Zone. He only practiced against it for 80% of his career.
  • Weddle blitzing makes Peyton nervous. That's how you know he's studied a ton of Chargers film.
  • It's weird to say this, but Ingram looks like he's at about 50% effectiveness and is still playing like the best outside linebacker the team has. Excited for his future again.
  • 3rd & 6 and the Broncos' own young WR (Caldwell) reads the defense wrong. Looks like they ran the same play on 4th down and it went for an easy 15 yards.
  • I don't know who drew up that fake WR screen into the RB screen, but that play is unstoppable.
  • The Broncos essentially ran the same play, except this time they waited for the Chargers to look for the RB screen and actually threw the WR screen. That's just brilliant play-calling. Touchdown Broncos.
  • Up 7, in the 4th quarter, on the road, and the offense runs it on the first two plays of the drive. I get it, but I don't like it.
  • The "miscommunication play" where Mathews for 13 yards was a result of the loud crowd. Mathews didn't know what the play was and set up like a pass-blocker before Rivers stuck the ball in his gut. The Broncos read the line, thought it was a run to the left, and ran that way. Didn't the Chiefs do something like this for a touchdown earlier this year?
  • This drive so far: run, run, pass interference, run, run, run, run and now a punt. Still need to talk about the coaching staff not trusting Rivers late.
  • Also, punting from the Broncos' 37, especially when you're up by 7 in the 4th quarter and on the road, makes me want to vomit.
  • You can almost see Manning thinking "Watch how easily I can get back to the 37." Took the Broncos 2 plays and a horse collar penalty on Weddle.
  • Corey Liuget can still, occasionally, be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league. He (pretty easily) beat a double-team to hit Manning and cause the interception, which was beautifully caught by Thomas Keiser (two hands on the ball, getting his body underneath it).
  • The entire defense knew Mathews was running it, the blocking wasn't great, and Mathews just wills himself 9 yards down the field on 1st down. What an amazing game by him.
  • After Nick Novak's field goal, Prevent Defense! The Chargers are rushing 3 on every play and playing deep zone (and sidelines). Manning is taking the bait, throwing short passes to the middle of the field on almost every play.
  • Kind of weird that Jarret Johnson is playing middle linebacker in the prevent defense, but makes sense because he's a veteran guy that won't make mistakes and can be moved around during the no-huddle.
  • That was a terrible onside kick attempt by Denver.