That hasn’t really played out the way we expected, has it?
Instead the Broncos, after a slow start finding their feet, have dominated a poor AFC West and look on a collision course with some of the big hitters in the AFC come the postseason.
Let’s take a look at some of the key performances from both outfits that saw the Broncos one win closer to that.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
Alexander The Great
When the Chargers decided Vincent Jackson was too costly, they had a plan in place. They’d not only give Robert Meachem the chance to be a genuine starter in this league, but also add some versatility to their offense with the addition of Eddie Royal.
It’s safe to say neither man has panned out quite as expected.
Yet, through their failings and inability to stay healthy San Diego has been forced to throw Danario Alexander (+2.7) out there, and he’s responded fantastically. The injury issue will seemingly always hang over his head, but he’s always demonstrated an ability to make things happen, and the way he went to work on Tony Carter for two first downs and two more touchdowns was a thing of beauty. His late touchdown catch with 1:29 to go may have proved a mere consolation, but the skill involved was something to behold.
Harris The Not-So-Great
Earlier in the year it was D’Anthony Batiste. A tackle so out of his depth that you would literally struggle to find anyone worse. Well, Batiste has been benched and now Michael Harris (-7.7) has stepped up as the poster child for bad tackle play.
Don’t blame him though, not entirely. An undrafted free agent who came out in 2012, he shouldn’t have been put in this position. The Chargers, who must know that Jared Gaither has the kind of back injury that will always see him miss time, failed to properly prepare for this eventuality. In the same way that when Marcus McNeil was their left tackle they failed to compensate for his degenerative back condition, sending out a clearly overmatched Brandyn Dombrowski. They haven’t learned and they’re paying the price now.
In any case, Harris gave up a sack and seven hurries along with two penalties. Not good at all.
A Tale of Two Safeties
In Eric Weddle (+2.5) you have one of the league’s better safeties. His nose for the football ranks with the best of them, as his pick-six in the first quarter showed, but he also does the little things well, like coming up to support in run defense and filling holes his teammates may leave. Unfortunately, in Atari Bibgy (-3.0) you have a guy who, at the moment, is playing poorly however you dice it. Now he did make a nice play to break up a pass with 11:13 to go in the third quarter, but that doesn’t excuse his role on Brandon Stokley’s touchdown with 1:51 to go in the first half, where (not for the first time this year) Bigby bit on a fake screen only to see the ball end up in the end zone. Add in a missed tackle, a couple of first downs given up and needing the inaccuracy of Manning to save him giving up a big completion (Q1, 2:22) and you’ve got a bad day.
Denver – Three Performances of Note
We’ve certainly seen him play better, but in a week which won’t go down as one of the best for quarterback play, Manning (-0.3) didn’t shine. At least not throughout this one. Instead he had trouble dealing with a Chargers’ defense that had a lot of joy sending a slot corner blitzing in his direction. Twice Marcus Gilchrist would bat balls at the line of scrimmage as Manning failed to account for this, with one of these ending up in the arms of Weddle for a touchdown.
Of course there was plenty of good, like his big completion with 5:18 to go in the final quarter that all but sealed the game for Denver. Manning showed beautiful touch to get the ball over Takeo Spikes and into the hands of Jacob Tamme. However, there were also a lot of overthrown balls (we counted six) that prevented some big completions.
Is Von Miller (+9.7) a candidate for defensive player of the year? He may not just be a candidate, he may be the actual front runner after another dominant display. Here he gathered three more sacks and seven more hurries as he went to work on Jeromey Clary, Louis Vasquez and any Charger foolish enough to think they could get in his way. It’s not just the amount of pressure, but how quickly it comes and it had Rivers on the back foot all day long. You need only know that Rivers’ completion percentage dropped from 75 percent to 37.5 percent when pressured to understand just how crucial Miller was in securing this win. Incredible performance.
A former second-round pick, we weren’t sure if Zane Beadles (+3.7) had it in him to be a capable NFL starter. It certainly didn’t look that way in his first two years. But he’s improved this year, and improved in a big way, and against San Diego that was on show for all to see.
He gave up just the solitary hurry in pass protection but it was his run blocking that starred. He comprehensively got the better of Corey Liuget and did exceptionally well getting to the second level, as all of the Chargers inside linebackers found out. His pulling to the right side was particularly effective, and with Willis McGahee down Denver are going to need more performances like this to help out their fill-in backs.
– Peyton Manning went 5-of-13 on passes aimed over 10 yards, and 20-of-24 on passes aimed under 10 yards in the air.
– Tony Carter gave up six-of-seven balls into his coverage for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Before this game he’d given up 11-of-32 for 115 yards and no touchdowns (with two picks and four pass breakups).
– Remember when Antwan Barnes was a pass rushing stud? He rushed the passer only five times in this game.
PFF Game Ball
Evan Silva called it right, it’s rare a defensive player can take over a game. But then it’s rare you find a player like Von Miller.
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