With Tebow-Mania running wild, it would be understandable if you forgot that an actual game took place on Sunday between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos; but take place it did, and the Chargers once again managed to pick up a win without ever doing enough to make you think they could be serious playoff contenders.
At least this year they’re winning games while they wait to peak.
Inspired by a strong running game that features Ryan Mathews at its helm, and further helped by a Broncos offense that made completing a pass look almost impossible at times, the Chargers now sit pretty at 4-1, while the Broncos are in the cellar of the AFC West. While all the chatter coming out of this game may have been about one man, there were other talking points this game raised that may prove just as significant in the short term for Denver.
Anyways, shall we look at some performances of note?
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
1) On The Pull
The Chargers love to get their guards moving, and this was a game where both Louis Vasquez (+3.0) and Kris Dielman (+4.0) showed that they’re more than up to the task. Numerous times, both players would pull to the left or to the right and managed to gettheir hands on a smaller linebacker and seal them out of a play. Having linemen with the agility to execute these pull blocks was extremely important, especially with a thumper like Joe Mays coming downhill with the sole intention of disrupting running plays. Given how poor the tackling was in this one (Marcus McNeil and Jeromey Clary combined for a -5.9 run blocking grade), the success of the running game owed a lot to the work of these two players.
2) Slotting In
It’s not often you get to talk about a slot cornerback, but the play of Dante Hughes (+3.5) presents me with a chance to do so. Hughes played 26 snaps, 17 of which were spent in coverage and 14 of which were in the slot. How did he fare against the feeble Broncos passing attack? Well he allowed one of the four balls thrown his way to be completed for negative four yards. Oh yeah, he allowed that reception after breaking up two passes. It says something that the only time the Broncos were able to complete a pass on him, was with 1:47 left in the first half. On that play, he closed on the receiver with such speed that the end result was negative yardage and more boos showered down on the Denver offense.
3) Tackling a Problem
Last week I talked about the issues Jeromey Clary (-6.0) had with Cameron Wake. This week, Clary had issues in pass protection primarily with Elvis Dumervil, but he also gave up pressure to Von Miller, Jason Hunter and even Robert Ayers. Clary’s brutal performance seemed to be contagious, because Marcus McNeil (-4.5) also had plenty of issues in pass protection, giving up five pressures of his own. The most concerning aspect of this performance, was how consistently either man was beaten, as 41.7% of San Diego’s drop-backs resulted in a quarterback pressure. Given that Philip Rivers took five sacks and completed only three of eight passes when under pressure, they’ll need to up their game if the Chargers passing attack is to scare teams the way it did in 2010.
Denver – Three Performances of Note
1) The Return of Doom
Having watched Denver this year, one of the most noticeable things has been how quiet Elvis Dumervil (+6.1) had been on his 74 snaps before this game. I was a little concerned that lingering effects from his 2010 injury would render this year a “work yourself back to health for next year” type of season. Well this game eliminated those fears, with the Broncos defensive end looking far more explosive, as he picked up an incredible nine pressures on 36 pass rushes, with two thirds of those pressures coming off of the edge. There’s been a lot of talk about Von Miller (and rightly so) but it’s important not to forget that the Broncos’ premium pass rusher remains the extremely talented Dumervil.
2) Give Youth a Chance – Not Always The Best Policy
When Brian Dawkins went down after 19 snaps, it meant that Quinton Carter (-2.9) and Rahim Moore (-2.7) would fill in for him, and as you can tell from the grades it hasn’t work out so well. Carter got caught on a Philip Rivers play fake, leaving him late in providing deep support on Malcolm Floyd’s 42 yard touchdown reception. His free safety partner in crime, Moore, managed to miss four times as many tackles as he made, which is terrible considering how a team’s safety is generally one of their final lines of defense.
3) Tebow Time
It was unavoidable, you knew that at some point we would have to talk about Tim Tebow’s (+2.6) performance. But first, let’s look at the man he’s replacing, Kyle Orton (-1.5). In what could be his last start for the Broncos this season, Orton was beyond terrible. There’s no point in sugar coating it, as Orton just had one of those days where he couldn’t do anything right. His two best throws resulted in difficult drops, while his low point came with 1:27 left in the first half. That play likely sped up the introduction of Tebow, as Orton managed to miss an open receiver and throw the ball right down the throat of Eric Weddle (only for him to drop it). As for Tebow, well the throwing wasn’t always pretty, the spirals weren’t all that tight, and upon his introduction he managed to overthrow and under throw his receivers consistently. However, he got better offering a threat with his legs and showing what he could be capable of with a beautiful throw to Brandon Lloyd with 24 seconds left in the game. Regardless of his own individual performance, just having him on the field seemed to galvanize the Broncos and it will be very interesting to see how he performs going forward.
● The Broncos quarterbacks combined to complete only five passes outside the numbers (on either side) all game long.
● 95 of the 125 yards Ryan Mathews picked up came after contact.
● The Chargers intercepted one ball and broke up another five, while only allowing ten completions.
PFF Game Ball
Ryan Matthews, RB, San Diego Chargers
It’s big for the Chargers that they get a bye week now, so Ryan Mathews (+2.1) can recuperate. He’s a different player from the guy we saw last year, breaking tackles, making good cuts and picking up yards during contact. He’s a real difference maker.
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