Ok, so I spoke too soon when I said that these things get funnier from week to week. This one is painful. But overall, you have to say that literally no team (well, except for the Patriots) could reasonably be expected to win at home against Denver, then beat Atlanta on the road before toppling Denver on the road. Going 2-1 here is not bad. Yes, it should have been different, but players and coaches make mistakes. That is how you lose games. Any game really. This is not a Chargers specialty, although I will come back later to that point.
So, like always, my points are in somewhat chronological order but they do not have to be. Although this week, I think I adhered to a more drive-by-drive perspective with a few general/overarching points discussed at the end. Looking forward to your comments! And I know these are getting fairly long so tell me if you want those more pointed or if they are fine like that. Please leave your feedback to make the "Rewatch: Extensive Analysis" better.
1) That was a good first drive by the Chargers defense. DEN forced them to respect the run by showing running formation but they ended up throwing nonetheless except for one play.
OK, it's not good to give up that chunk play on 3rd down as Flowers did to Taylor, but it almost looks like he plays zone because he is stopping his feet even though Jordon breaks inside from the get-go. Looked strange to say the least.
Chargers played zone before that and Siemian, as becomes increasingly obvious, struggles to read zone coverages. He holds the ball too long or simply throws it short somewhere. That's not bad, but it will not kill you either. Early on they played Cover 3 and in the red zone Tampa 2 (Cover 2 with the ILB having more responsibilities deep down field; think about an ILB running with a TE deep down the seam instead of rerouting him and passing him off to the deep Safeties). With the exception of the man blitz mentioned before when Flowers gave up that huge play.
One time, the Chargers defense bit hard on the play-fake and it resulted in an easy completion over the middle and a new set of downs. This is how the Chargers need to run play-action more often themselves. Usually, they are very risk averse and throw it outside the numbers where the effect of "suckered-in" LBs is not felt as much. It still works, but often, they want to set up deep throws where a CB is the primary defender and those are usually not concerned with the run game.
After some other nice plays, the Chargers buckle down and force an FG. That is OK. Whenever you give up a 30+ yard catch and the drive results in an FG, I can live with that.
2) Chargers with a great drive here to start the game. Game plan included the desire to get Gordon to the edge like on the first play where Miller is double teamed by TEs and Gordon gets outside for a 5 yard gain. It is a misdirection run that looks like it goes to the weak side, but then Gordon runs to his left.
I am not sure, however, whether running outside is a good idea against DEN. That defense has speed and power all over the field. On that fake Jet motion toss to Gordon, that was evident.
Play of the drive (so far) by Watt here. Play action and even though the defense is not selling out or anything, someone drops the coverage on Watt, who has a 1-1 against one of the better DBs in football, Chris Harris Jr. If you just see this screenshot and you know its Watt vs. Harris Jr., how many more yards do you give Watt? 10? 15? 20? Well, Watt turns on the jets, looks surprisingly fast and shows nice power to keep off the defender and is only tackled AT THE NINE YARD LINE OR 41 YARDS LATER. Great play by Watt. I mean he did nothing to become so wide-open, but those are definitely 20 more yards here than you would expect. Most FBs are probably caught from behind here too however Watt can even put a nice little move on Harris Jr. to create some room and then stiff-arms/carries him for a good 15 yards more.
Gates finishes it with an even better play, his best in MANY games. It is all set up for Gates to get the TD. But he has to break a tackle for it. And he extends just over the goal line. Great play but this could have easily been a tackle short of the goal line and an FG.
3) Broncos out again, and Siemian almost throws a pick. I do not know why he throws that ball. It is tipped by Emanuel and Flowers really needs to come up with it. Initially, it looked like it surprised Flowers, but you can see that he has time to set his feet. He simply drops it. Bad decision by Siemian. Emanuel was always in the throwing lane. His intended receiver had one guy trailing him, one behind him, one over the top and if the receiver catches it, Flowers can come in and put him into the hospital. Broncos got lucky here.
DEN RB fumbles a pitch on the next play and is dropped for a loss before Lowery makes a nice and sure tackle short of the sticks on a 9-yard catch over the middle. That was a bad series by DEN and they were very lucky to get off a punt. Yes, another defense probably cashes in on those mistakes, but there is also a luck element to it.
4) Chargers punt very quickly here but missed a huge play. You know how the Chargers love to run TE/WR "split" run plays (see for example that page here) where the whole Oline blocks to the left in this case and a TE or WR comes from left to right and kicks out the edge defender? They run this a lot. Here, with a heavy formation, the Broncos probably think run. And the Oline blocks to the left, Inman runs to the right to kick out Miller, however, he releases into the flat and its a play-fake to the left. With a perfectly thrown ball, this is at least a first down. But Rivers cannot quite get it where it needs to be and Inman has to wait shortly and only gains 4 yards.
The next play, on 3rd down, the Chargers line up with their bread-and-butter. Bunch formation with Benjamin as the end man. High crosser alert for the defense if they watched just a little tape on the Chargers. In case you read my analysis of the first DEN game, you know that the Broncos love to pass off crossers to a defender who is better positioned to cover the route. Here, the most outside CB is assigned Benjamin and passes him off immediately to the Safety when Benjamin takes a step inside. However, Benjamin pivots back outside and this leaves him open in the void between his "original" and his "new" defender. This play was perfectly set up and I do not understand why Rivers felt the need to go to Inman 1-1 against Roby. Inman was held and interfered with quite clearly but there was no call. In case Rivers was unsure about the coverage, he could have still tried to hit Williams on the deep bomb. If it's intercepted, it's like a punt and if it's caught, the Chargers are deep in DEN territory.
5) Good punt and a penalty on Trevor Williams led to the Broncos having the ball on their own 5. Chargers defense holds again and the Chargers offense retakes the field in better field position than before the punt. Hayward could have had a pick here, but it was not an easy catch. Bosa made the RT look absolutely out of place on that. Remember, that is a short throw, a skinny slant and Bosa still gets there for a legal hit on Siemian.
6) Chargers get the ball back around midfield and miss a huge play to Henry because the pass is batted down. On the next play, Benjamin maybe should have gotten a DPI call and then Rivers is sacked on a promising play when Fluker and Barksdale could not account for Miller and the blitzing Safety. Chargers are unlucky as Kaser's punt is very close to rolling out of bounds inside the 5 but it ends up being a touchback.
7) Broncos gain a grand total of 2 yards on the next play with Ingram undercutting an out route with ease and if Siemian throws a good ball here (as he probably wanted, this was not a throwaway), Ingram has himself a pick six. I really like the freelancing thing Ingram has going on. Chargers play, like the majority of the game so far, Cover 3 and Cover 2 without blitzing much.
8) Chargers offense returns the favor and punts also within only a few plays. Not much here on that series. Toss outside where 3-4 Broncos converge on Gordon and a few unsuccessful passes.
9) Broncos again get lucky. Chargers drop into Cover 4 on the 3rd & long and Brown tips up the pass perfectly and on an another day, this one falls into the hands of a Chargers defender. Here, it falls into almost the only spot where it cannot be intercepted and DEN can punt.
10) Not sure what Rivers saw here. They high-low the ILB and when that defender steps down to cover Williams, Rivers probably could have hit Gates over the ILB. Rivers had all day to throw but did not decide to throw at Whalen, who was open throughout that play.
Crazy sequence here, at first, Rivers fumble is overturned and you have to admit, that was close. Really did not think they would overturn that one. Then, on the punt, Chargers fail to pick up an outside rusher but get away with it because that guy simply ran through Kaser's non-kicking leg. If Kaser has a little weight on that leg, his knee gets completely blown out. I have seen people commending Kaser on his acting skills which is absolutely stupid (on MHR & on BFTB). That was a brutal foul that can destroy a career. It happens quickly, no doubt, I am not saying that was intentional. But it was an obvious penalty and whether Kaser rolls around or jumps back up, it does not matter. The penalty is for shooting right through the leg of a punter in a defenseless posture. Not for his "acting" or whatever. Which would be stupid. You cannot really flop when your leg is taken out from under you.
So in case it has not been obvious so far: I was a punter (besides WR) myself and was on the receiving end of quite a few roughing calls and I never got the whole "flopping" stuff. The defender hitting the punter after the kick is the idiot.
Then one of the procedure penalties on Barksdale. I actually think he AND Fluker were not on the line here. The funny thing is that I can honestly only remember one Olineman ever looking, during some earlier game this year, at the sideline ref to check if he is on the line (like every WR does every play). And that guy was Barksdale.
This was a huge play, as on the very next play (after a false start on Barksdale), Williams tipped the ball in the air and it was returned for a pick-six. I would say, Rivers has about 80% of the blame here. The ball was thrown too high and given how Williams has to contort his body, that is simply not an easy catch. Definitely catchable, but Rivers set up Williams to fail here.
11) Chargers get the ball back now trailing for the first time. This felt like a tight game, but one where SD had clearly the upper hand. Then a little, bad, unlucky play for the pick-six and you really had to wonder if the Chargers could win that one. To feed these doubts, Chargers go 3-and-out after a deep bomb to a double-covered Benjamin falls incomplete. Surely, Rivers got fooled here because that one never had a chance. Gates came open underneath but it's difficult to say if the defender pulled up after seeing Rivers throw to another part of the field.
12) Now I know they will not call everything but come on! Bosa comes off the edge, absolutely abuses the RT and is clearly past him. At that point, it's by definition impossible to impede his progress towards the QB without committing a penalty. Even worse is that a penalty was thrown but ultimately picked up for whatever reason. You see how the RT holds Bosa and then pushes him into the back and to the ground away from Siemian. Basically two fouls in one. DEN converts on a 3rd & long.
The very next play is actually a good illustration of a thing the Chargers did very well during this game. I mean that play is not a good illustration because it was a 37-yard catch and it included a possible blown coverage by Hayward (hard to say). But overall, the Chargers did a good job of vacating their zones when no threat came towards them. Like a Safety playing deep thirds on the left side would almost play in the middle of the field to help against a post or seam route. Or a CB playing deep thirds would very quickly come up on an out-route or comeback if there was no deep threat. It's always a bad idea to cover grass instead of eligible receivers and the Chargers did a good job of recognizing and reacting to plays. That's film study, game planning, and good execution. By the way, Bosa ended up being triple teamed here and he actually freed up Mebane. Like the commentators said, it's a changing NFL. On that deep pass, 15 years ago, Lowery probably goes in there full speed and knocks it loose. But the way Sanders laid out for the catch, diving forward, there was little chance to hit him legally here. Cannot blame Lowery in my opinion for that.
The next play, the Broncos run it for 4 yards. That's not good on first down as a defense but that play, like it was intended to run, was blown up. Booker simply made a nice cutback and earned every one of those yards. But that's not what I want to show you here. Look at how Mebane and Bosa hold up against the double-team. Obviously, these two are a huge upgrade over Lissemore and Reyes. They free up LBs, they redirect RBs after double teamed. For Bosa, this is especially crazy. He looks kind of lanky but you simply see his strength on nearly every play, even playing inside against two guys having probably 40 pounds on him EACH. I think he is maybe a little overhyped but sooooo much of the love he gets nationwide is absolutely justified. Crazy to think that he only had a few handful of NFL practices in full pads. To be honest, I could live with him being just that force in the run game with maybe 2-3 sacks a year. That would be fine.
The next play, Hayward had his shoulda-woulda-95-yard-pick-six.
Luckily, Ingram and Palepoi bail him out for the moment as Siemian fumbles and SD recovers. Still, 7 points on the board are 7 points and Hayward has to be kicking himself for that one. Can you say pass rush? Also, do not forget Palepoi. He is also playing very well. Liuget is serviceable and as DE contracts explode left and right, not that overpaid.
13) So your defense just forced a turnover near your own goalline. Time to get some momentum going. First play. Gosh, there is so much I like here. So many things. First, like the Full-House formation here. Henry comes in motion and shortly freezes the edge defender before climbing to the Safety. That edge defender gets almost killed by Fluker. Got to think DJ loves that play call, do you agree? Look at him pull from the right to the left and completely driving that guy out of the club. Gordon with some nice vision as he cuts just inside the block by Watt and finishes it off with some power there to get the first instead of settling for a 9-yard gain.
Shortly after that, play-action did not work as Rivers threw it away in the direction of Gates. Note that this was not a miscommunication (Q2, 2:29). Next play on 3rd down, Rivers hits Benjamin on a very nice play. He rolls out, almost magically feeling the pressure to the left and hits Benjamin who got some separation on a hitch route. Next play is the Chargers' own weird "double RB release" where Watt and Gordon run to a similar spot. It works for a short gain (this was the Derek Watt flip play in the first Denver game).
Nice play here by Rivers to recognize the coverage and see that Gates is 1-1 with the Safety who gives him a 10 yard cushion. Maybe a quicker play would have been better (quick out/slant) but Gates has full 10 yards to set up his route and gets WIDE open for an easy catch.
The next three plays are three incompletions and Lambo misses a 45 yarder. The first one was a deep corner to Benjamin which was a tough throw into a small window (little over-the-top hand fighting by Roby) although Benjamin was open inside the 10 yard line. Not a bad throw, but also not perfect and I think Roby got away with slowing down Benjamin here illegally. The second one was harder to swallow. This is actually a great play design. A similar wrinkle worked against the Falcons. Gates stays in to block and is completely dropped by the DEN coverage when he releases. If Rivers sees him, that are some easy yards to get maybe a first or at least make it easier on Lambo.
The 3rd down play is depicted below in my "general points" where Gates is taken out of the play because he needed to chip Miller.
14) Last drive of the first half by DEN after the missed FG: quick 15-yard gain OOB to Sanders but then the drive stalls (Toomer misses an INT that probably would not have made a huge difference but still he needs to make it) and instead of trying a long FG or a punt, they go for it and do not make it. Chargers play Cover 4 on that drive with some nice underneath coverage work by Brown/Perry/Flowers. They immediately turned zone into man, good recognition. On the 4th down play, Chargers mix it up, bring a zone blitz with 3 deep zones and Siemian hurries the deep throw to #10.
15) This leaves the Chargers with a chance to get into FG themselves with 14 seconds but they cannot and the first half ends. Not a good decision here by DEN. You punt that ball.
16) Chargers get the ball. Down 3 points although they were the better team so far. So you need to show something here. Big drive. On first down, Gordon again with a 5 yard gain from the "Full-House". On a 3rd & medium, Chargers come out in the bunch formation. And, as is so often the case, Benjamin is the end man and initially goes inside. But sometimes (like at least once in the first game and also once earlier in that game), he only fakes inside and pivots back outside. This is clearly a countermeasure to the Broncos passing off receivers on the crossers as I have outlined in the first Broncos game review. However, this time, DEN reads it perfectly and Rivers throws it just a little bit too far outside, its tipped in the air and picked off. Notice how the defenders simply wait for the route to develop. Basically, the most outside CB takes the WR who ends up the closest to the sideline and the inside one takes whoever runs an in-breaking route and so on. This way, noone can get picked. Nice adjustment by DEN against the bunch.
17) Broncos take over on the SD 10 yard line. First play, Booker runs for 7 yards although a hold on Hayward is missed. BIG MISSED CALL. Then, Booker runs it in for a pretty easy TD after Ingram shoots inside and Hayward follows #88 inside. DEN up 17-7 now just a few minutes into the 2nd half.
18) GOOD throwaway by Rivers on 1st down (Gates triple covered and everybody else locked up). That is exactly why I hate to see his sack fumbles. He has an extraordinary feel for the pocket and knows when a play is not going to work. And he throws the ball away. That is a positive play after no one gets open.
Speaking of positive plays, well, you might want to skip the next one. The "Whalen INT". Simply an awful play to watch. The pass was actually closer than I remember. It's not that Rivers expected Whalen to break back outside. I think Whalen did not make an overly bad play here and he actually gets open by making just one more step inside. Rivers did not anticipate that step and an easy pitch and catch turns into a disaster. Tough to say who is at fault. Probably simply a chemistry issue where Whalen feels like he needs to make that shuffle step to get more separation and Rivers is not used to that adjustment as Gates or Henry would run it differently. More unlucky than a bad play I think by Rivers and Whalen.
Whoa, when the wheels come off (like against ATL early on) THEY DO COME OFF for the Chargers. It feels like they are ripped off. 7-3 lead turned into a 7-17 situation with DEN on the doorstep to make it 7-24?
19) But not so fast. We need a play here. Notice how Liuget and Mebane hold up the blockers and allow Brown to shoot the gap. Also note how Lowery fires in to help secure the tackle and how Bosa, pretty much occupying the gap where this run is intended to go, is simply not moved. Like at all. Yeah, THAT'S A PLAY!
OK, but what about ANOTHER PLAY (Q3, 11:52)? Toomer with, without exaggeration, one of the best defensive plays I have ever seen. Yeah, Booker tried to switch hands or whatever, but to force the fumble and to keep it in bounds is just nasty. Its also a little lucky, yes, but a great play. GREAT PLAY.
20) 98 yards to go to make this a game against a good defense. Damn it, it gets a little gif-happy but that is not a bad thing, right? Gordon with a simply incredible effort (Q3, 11:44) to get some breathing room here after the defense gets the ball back for the offense on the 2-yard line. He breaks two arm tackles at the 3-yard line. He carries two defenders 4 yards before a third defender brings him down. Power. Period.
After two bad plays and a penalty on Henry (Q3, 11:04) which was very ticky-tack in comparison to a lot of things the Broncos DBs get away with, it is Inman time! That is not a thing yet? Well it should be.
Inman with a 37-yard catch right after that to boot. Rivers takes a huge hit and actually does not throw to an open Gates after the play-fake but hits Inman on the out/up who comes back perfectly to a slightly underthrown ball.
Later, Rivers misses Inman and Henry after he has immediate pressure on a play-fake.
Gates converts 3rd & long with a classic post up on the first down marker before Benjamin completes one of the better drives of the season, maybe even the best one. Deep stutter post is opened up by Gates and Benjamin tips the ball to himself with one hand. 98-yard drive, converted a 3rd & 12, a 3rd & 8 and a 3rd & 10 along the way. Great play calls, great execution and nice display of resilience after EVERYTHING went downhill.
A little mistake afterward (which turned out to be huge): Palepoi is pushed down by a double team on the extra point and it is blocked. Only 1 point? Not so fast...
21) Denver now with a run-heavy drive. Chargers play man and Siemian can complete passes against man (as I said, not so much against zone). It is obviously important to mix things up, but at that point, every man play felt wasted. It also became apparent that DEN runs away from Bosa on key downs (3rd down, Q3, 2:52). Some underneath passes and most importantly some powerful running brings DEN down into SD territory.
Key play here, 3rd down, ability to force a long FG. Ingram and Brown with probably their worst play of the game. If Ingram and Brown make a great play here like we all expect them to do here, they can force a 40+ yard FG. Instead, Booker gains 18 yards.
Chargers then are ready for the roll-out before the most egregious referee call of the game happened. This was so obvious, its not even funny. You remember the OPI against Benjamin in ATL? Green simply blocks like its a run play and Sanders catches the ball a good second after Green intentionally runs and blocks Perry. I have absolutely no idea how the refs missed that one. This is so obvious. The OPIs against the Chargers, well those are subjective like "it felt like he was not catching the ball or whatever". OK, that's an interpretation, but here you have a TE in a perfect blocking posture, engaging the defender off the snap, does not try to run a route AT ALL. But its 3rd & goal on the 1 instead of 2nd & 18. I have no doubt that the defense holds DEN to an FG on 2nd & 18. Bad bad call. I do not even know why you should have to accept calls like that. I am almost at loss for words. You see in the gif how the contact is made (red circle) way before the ball is caught (green check mark), e.g. the point from which on blocking would be legal.
DEN punches it in on an FB dive where the defense held up initially.
22) This Full-House formation is something. I did not chart it but with basically two plays out of it, the Chargers absolutely manhandled the Broncos when using this formation. Feels like a solid 8 yards or so on average here. Off the bat, I cannot remember a pass play from this formation, which makes it even more impressive.
The drive stalls after an incompletion on an easy throw to Benjamin. Rivers throws it a little short and Benjamin takes his eyes off a little early. However, Rivers needs to throw that on target and give Benjamin a chance to pick up some yards to make it an easier third down:
CLOSE call on the hit to the helmet on Rivers on the sack on the next play (Q4, 10:28). But I think it is a good call as Rivers ducks his head a little bit. I have little doubt however that a Chargers defender gets that call. Being a "good" defense certainly makes the ref more hesitant to call certain things.
Kaser with a great punt (he was truly money in that game like you expected from him so I hope I do not have to write more about him in the future).
23) DEN with the ball on its own 2-yard line, up 24-13, 9 minutes left in the game. Liuget draws a holding penalty (which was rightfully declined). Siemian then with a great throw to #88 for a nice pick up of a first down.
Have I mentioned that Bosa and Mebane are good against the run? It will not look like much but look how Bosa pushes his man back a full yard, giving the RB no chance to follow the FB lead block. Mebane also does a nice job and the LBs clean it up. Liuget here also with a nice hustle to work through traffic and fill the cutback lane.
Hayward with the nice pick-six to make this a game. Tipped ball which, for once on the Chargers side, is actually an easy pick and there is absolutely no one to catch Hayward. Good throw by Siemian (although far away from the sticks on a 3rd & 10) but the WR tips it up.
Speaking of OPIs, are you kidding me? Gates is clearly standing there on the 2-pt conversion. I am not saying he is making an actual effort to catch the ball but he is not blocking anyone. Before the contact is made, he is just standing there. That was really a subjective call. I downright hate the fact that they call this one but do not call the other one on DEN on their last TD drive. An absolute joke.
Then, I do not like that the Chargers go for it after it is a 12-yard 2-pt attempt. I think the chances of converting that are minimal and ONE point here is simply the better play. From the 2, you have to go for two, but with over 8 minutes left, I think you need to make it a 4 point game because with that much time left, DEN might kick an FG (which they did) and then, it would be a 7 point game. Although I am a McCoy defender, that is a really bad decision. No one is talking about it, but that is a bad call.
24) One score game now, DEN up 5 points, 8 minutes left with the ball. Two plays, 71 yards. On the first one, Green gets open down the middle. Notice how Perry plays the role Jatavis Brown would play but he left the game earlier. If Brown is in there, he probably carries the route a little deeper to make this a tougher throw. The commentators joked about how the Broncos caught the Chargers off-guard with the passing. Well, that is simply untrue. The play-call was there, it was just not executed properly.
On the very next play, Siemian makes the best throw of the game and puts an absolute dime down the sideline against great coverage. Again, the commentators almost ridicule the Chargers for "falling for the pass" and get Kubiak's HoF jacket fitted for the incredible play-calling. The Chargers were ready for it, it was simply a great play. I mean what should they do in a 4-minute drill situation? Double #10 and #88 so they cannot throw it? Hayward was in nice position but give credit to Siemian and Thomas for executing the play.
Here we are again. Down 5 points, DEN on the SD 4 yard line. WE NEED A PLAY! First down: Bosa, Mebane, Toomer and Liuget with a nice stop for a 2 yard gain (away from Bosa).
So you think this whole "away from Bosa" is overblown by me? Well, think again, second down: Broncos want to run it at Bosa. Well, a "2-yard loss" sounds so boring but look how Bosa pushes the TE back, controls him with one hand, shoves him back with that same one hand and then locates/wraps up the ball-carrier. WOW!
On 3rd down, the ball falls incomplete on a pivot route to Sanders. Maybe a little contact, but the way the refs called this game, especially on the DEN DBs, there is no way they can call this. Defense holds and keeps it a one score game.
25) Offense gets the ball back, down 8 with over 5 minutes remaining. Inman with a nice conversion on 2nd & 15 on a sharp comeback route. You can tell he is almost always exactly where he needs to be.
Gordon gains 30 on a perfectly set-up play-action pass. The exact same formation was run with the exact same motion earlier and it was a run. This time, Gordon loses his assigned defender, turns on the jets and gains 30 yards down the sideline.
Then the same play from the Full House formation above (where Franklin and Henry pull), only to the left. Henry and Fluker pull this time and Gordon gains 17 yards. 47 yards on two consecutive plays on some very nice play designs.
Watt with a nice block on Farrow's ensuing 5 yard gain down to the DEN 9 yard line (Q4, 3:46).
What a catch by Henry on 3rd down. Heavy pressure, good coverage, better catch. Ball now at the DEN 2 yard line.
Now follows the ugly goal line sequence and even though I usually think it's impossible to say exactly what a better play should have been as the coaches know better who is healthy, who showed up in practice, which plays worked best in practice, which kind of plays have been set up during the game and so on, this sequence felt bad. Clock management (although McCoy did not say that) maybe was an issue because throwing it 4 times obviously leads to having enough time to force another 3 and out to get the ball back. But still, one run probably was in order. Especially from the Full House formation that absolutely abused the Broncos. Or what about a play-action here from a Full House set? I mean you punish them from this specific formation for at least 60 yards on 5-6 carries or so, you never throw it, how about a play action here. Broncos HAVE to sell out to stop the run from that formation. For a great write-up on the goal line plays, see here. My overall point is that while I do not agree with the lack of creativity in the play calls, formations, motions, with the inability to get the plays in and so on, ALL the plays had a chance. Gordon might score on the first down play. Gates could make a tough catch over the middle on 2nd down. On 3rd & 4th down, Gates and Williams were open.
26) Quick three-and-out by DEN highlighted by another referee brainfart. Okung lies on Bosa, a full two yards in the EZ. But obviously, that hold was outside, right? Its a run play, so the initial contact was probably outside the EZ, yes, but the actual foul was clearly in the EZ. Bosa shoots the gap and it is not even close. An absolute stunner. After a strange pass call/throwaway, the Chargers get the ball back with 1 TO left BEFORE the 2-minute warning. I would have loved to see a punt block call here just to speed up the clock for the punter a bit and tell my returner to fair catch everything because there will not be many guys to block for him. Great punt by DEN which probably won the game there.
27) That last drive, I would not be too harsh. In that situation, the Broncos defense is almost impossible to beat. With that pass rush, when they know that you have to go deep, it's over. We really lack a jump-ball receiver that can give you something in such situations.
A) Why is Miller 1-1 against Barksdale so often? Why is there no one chipping him? Well, I think the answer is clear, this is a quick-passing offense and for the majority of concepts, the benefit of chipping Miller is non-existent as its better to have the RB/TE release and scheme him open. Yes, sometimes it looks ugly, but most sacks in this system are coverage sacks, even if they occur very quickly. If Rivers cannot throw his first or second read, its over anyways so in that regard I think it means very little if you can protect him only 2 seconds instead of 2.5. In this offense, the ball should be out quickly almost regardless. Furthermore, we only need OTs that can force rushers wide and are not getting bull rushed. Rivers steps up without issue when the OT is beaten wide. That is literally no problem at all.
Q2, 1:04 was a perfect example of how a chip is not always a great solution. Gates tries to chip Miller who is very wide but this takes so much time that his route is pretty much defended by Miller, without anyone else really needing to cover him. And, with a guy like Miller, you see that its not like you can eliminate him anyways with a chip. I think the approach with quick passes is better than have two guys neutralized by 1 player. Think about that play below. What if Gates simply releases and runs his patented option route underneath? I think that is a better play.
I also noticed that they were adamant in helping Hairston while he was in whereas they would leave Barksdale 1-1 more often. Maybe that coincided with deeper routes (I think it did overall) but I thought that was interesting.
B) Overall, the offense simply did not protect the ball enough. With only 1 Turnover, this is a win, but 3 of them which directly led to 14 points is simply too much. Think about it, the defense basically allowed a FG early, a TD drive late and an FG drive at the end. The other points were basically "expected" after the turnovers. And they actually turned a 98% scoring situation by DEN into a turnover. The defense was good enough and the offense would have been good enough if not for the turnovers.
C) This brings me to another point. I think the Chargers are guilty this year of too many "obvious" mistakes that even a casual fan can spot (e.g. fumbles, failures to field punt returns, etc.) but it really does not matter which mistake you make. Missing a block as a LG (like when Franklin was walked back on an otherwise EASY 3rd down conversion before Gates caught that ball on 4th down) on a run play is just as bad. People usually do not talk about it. And this is my point I want to make here. People want to say "stupid mistakes, stupid Chargers" but literally everything we call a mistake is "avoidable", regardless of what that is. If Liuget or Bosa attack the wrong gap (not saying they did that often, just as an example), that is as bad as Williams tipping up that ball or as bad as Rivers throwing a pass over the middle which is simply too high. Letting a punt bounce is the same like when a DB fails to read his keys and is late to break up a pass. Even the fumble by Benjamin against the Saints can be explained by that because he wanted to switch hands and he simply was one step further with his head than with his hands. Simple mistake by itself, should not happen, but is not much different than a RB taking his eyes off a swing pass. What I want to say is that people are overreacting to the mistakes the Chargers make when that is exactly how nearly every game is lost, regardless of how visible the mistakes are. Coaching mistakes are not very visible but usually also among the first scapegoats.
D) Rivers also played a fairly bad game. His ball placement was on and off and this could have been much worse had the coaches not decided to rely on Gordon late in the game. I think I have never seen a Rivers-led team actually running it because throwing was the clearly worse option. Well, except for the goal line.
E) Referees had a thorough impact on the game. As I said, they basically gave the Broncos 4 points when they failed to call OPI and make it 2nd & 18 instead of 3rd & 1 at the goal line. Then, they called OPI on the 2-pt conversion, which was FAR more subjective. Furthermore, Bosa was held in the EZ on that final DEN drive, but no 2 points (this would have also led to SD getting the ball back earlier and conserving more time-outs so the final drive could have still included some runs). And I did not even talk about the spearing by Miller where he hit Rivers with the crown of the helmet in the stomach. That is a simple and clear penalty. There were many of those little holdings/DPI thingies on 3rd down where a stricter ref crew probably extends a drive and I think with that, the Chargers would have benefitted more from that than DEN. Its always stupid to say that the referees caused a loss but a team like the Chargers cannot survive mistakes and some bad calls, that's just the way it is.
F) That XPT block was simply bad. Had a huge impact too. Let's say that one is converted, so its 20-24 after Hayward's pick six. Now you can kick it to draw within a FG. Then you can kick it on the second-to-last drive to tie it and maybe even get another chance if you make a stop. Small mistake but huge impact.
G) Oh, and regarding the subtitle. That was an obvious knock on you know who but I saw many people blame Gordon for intentionally injuring Wade Phillips. Only those guys who actually played did not say a thing. Basically, when you cannot take those hits, you should not be standing there. There are 200-300 pound guys running around full speed a few yards away from you who have better things to do than avoiding sideline spectators. Whenever a camera guy, chain gang member, waterboy, ballboy or microphone guy is run over, noone cares at all even though it looks sometimes really ugly. But thats the risk of being down there. Yeah, maybe Gordon couldve maybe done more to avoid Phillips, but its not his job to do that.