DEN-SD Grades: Offenses struggle in AFC West contest

The top takeaways and highest graded players from the Broncos’ 17-3 win over the Chargers.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DEN-SD Grades: Offenses struggle in AFC West contest

Here are the top takeaways and highest graded players from the Broncos’ 17-3 win over the Chargers:

Denver Broncos:

– A QB Brock Osweiler (-4.1) touchdown pass to wrap up the opening drive suggested this contest may go down a different road, but that score was the end of the high times for either offense as the game downshifted into a clock-watching crawl. Osweiler pushed the ball 10-plus yards past the line of scrimmage 10 times but completed just that TD and two others while adding an underthrown second-quarter pick in the end zone and a misread of coverage which put the ball into the hands of Eric Weddle only to see the Chargers’ safety drop it.

– DE Malik Jackson (+8.4) had a day to remember against the left side of the Chargers’ line racking up a pair of hits, seven hurries and a +7.6 pass rush grade – most coming in quick fashion around or through his former teammate, Orlando Franklin. Jackson’s contribution was the biggest part of Denver getting pressure on more than half of San Diego’s dropbacks on their way to 30 total pressures on the day.

– With the team’s pass rush being the dominant topic, it’s worth a mention for some of the others that chipped in. OLB Von Miller (+7.9) collected two sacks to go along with three hits and a hurry, DE Derek Wolfe (+5.4) came away with a hit and five hurries and OLB Shaquil Barrett (+1.3) and DE Antonio Smith (+1.1) each found their way to three total pressures. The Denver front, start to finish, was simply too much for San Diego’s beat-up O-line to cope with.

Top performers:

DE Malik Jackson (+8.4)
OLB Von Miller (+7.9)
DE Derek Wolfe (+5.4)
S Darian Stewart (3.4)
OT Ryan Harris (+3.0)

San Diego Chargers:

– As mentioned above, QB Philip Rivers (-2.4) faced a barrage and just didn’t have the answer. Pressured on 20 of his 39 dropbacks, he completed five of 16 attempts for 47 yards, a pick, and was sacked four times. Rivers’ passer rating fell from 93.1 when not pressured to 14.6 with the rush getting to him. Coming off of his best game of the year last week against Jacksonville, this wasn’t the follow up Chargers fans had hoped for.

– On the downside of the destruction were LG Orlando Franklin (-7.5) and LT Chris Hairston (-7.4). The duo combined to surrender 14 total pressures (two sacks, three hits and nine hurries) while Hairston also had significant issues in the run game. As much trouble as Franklin had keeping up with the interior rush, Hairston struggled on the edge. He was so mentally shaken that at one point late in the second quarter, with Von Miller lined up across from him, he quickly dropped into his pass set… on a zone run play to his side. This game marked a season low in grades for both men.

– There were some positives, however, but most of them were found on the defense. Melvin Ingram (+2.5) is quietly putting together a good year and this was another example of what he flashes as an edge defender. A pair of sacks (one wiped away by his own – questionable as it was – roughing the passer penalty), a pair of hurries and four run stops were a good way to fill the stat sheet. His grade fell in line, landing him in the green for the fourth time in the past five games and his +7.0 pass rush grade now has him ranked 12th out of 55 qualifying 3-4 OLBs.

Top performers:

S Eric Weddle (+4.4)
CB Jason Verrett (+2.8)
DE Damion Square (+2.5)
OLB Melvin Ingram (+2.5)
DE Ricardo Mathews (+1.7)

  • Rick S.

    Denver’s offensive game-plan was ultra-conservative… It looked like Kubiak knew he didn’t have to do much offensively and basically cooled the engines after the first drive.

    How much depth do they have on defense??? They were missing four starters most of the game and were dominant. Denver’s defense looks crazy good.

    For all the talk about their QB situation, the deciding factor on if this team makes/wins the SuperBowl is their offensive line. Both Peyton and Brock have taken too many shots from free blitzers and/or guys who are poster-ized by getting plowed by a defensive lineman. Brock’s ability to play Kubiak’s system masks their OL woes better than Peyton’s ability to run the game from the Line of Scrimmage.

    • anon76returns

      Kubiak’s OLs have traditionally been better in the run game than in pass protection, going all the way back to the Broncos’ OLs of the mid to late 1990s (at least judging by Football Outsiders). This OL reflects that, with Mathis, Paradis, Garcia, and Schofield all being better run blockers than pass blockers. After an ugly first two weeks, Manning was back to covering for deficiencies in the pass blocking game, while Os isn’t at that level quite yet. If anything I’d say that Brock’s abilities expose the deficiencies in pass blocking, rather than masking any woes.

      • Rick S.

        I see your point, but Brock playing under center allows them to run the zone/stretch plays much more effectively. I don’t know if Peyton has the talent around him in terms OL and middle of the field receiving targets or the ability to compensate as well as Brock.

        • anon76returns

          That is hard to say. I’ve been a big proponent of Bennie Fowler in an Anquan Boldin-style role out of the slot, and Virgil Green always seemed critically under used as well (both of their completion % and yards/target suggest that they should be getting more targets). In addition to them, V Davis has now had some time in the offense to become a bit of a weapon, and even Owen Daniels has had a very strong past (23 receptions on 34 targets for 314 yards over the last 7 games).
          I do think that the zone/stretch is looking better now, but the Broncos offense did put up over 140 yards in three of Peyton’s last 5 starts leading into the KC debacle, and in the GB and Indy games in particular Manning proved to be very effective on boot rollouts, after embarrassing himself on such throws in the Baltimore and first KC game. If Peyton came back and is as effective on those boot rollouts as he was just before his injury, if the running game can be as effective as it was with Peyton vs. Minn, Cle, and GB, and (the big one) if Manning has learned not to press into INTs, then adding Manning back in the starting role would add some offensive punch to a defense that is beyond Championship caliber.

          • Jason Cornett

            I don’t know if any of the three factors you pointed out have a possibility of happening or not but what I do know is that an offense that can only muster 3 points after the first drive, while playing against one of the worst defenses in the league (which SD most certainly is) has ZERO chance of going anywhere in the playoffs. Brock is at home this week and playing against a banged up Raider’s team that has lost 4 of their last 5 and are also very poor defensively. If he looks in this game like he has looked for basically 6 of the last 8 qtrs he’s played in, then I don’t think the Broncos will have a choice but to give Peyton another chance. It’s a different type of offense with Peyton for sure, and he obviously can’t turn the ball over like he was, but the last 2 games before he got hurt (GB & IND) was the most productive the offense has been all season. I’m rooting for Brock to improve and show he can generate the necessary production to succeed in the playoffs, but I have seen very little so far that proves he can do that. And if he doesn’t show it soon, I’d rather take my chances with Peyton and hope he can rein in the INTs

          • anon76returns

            We saw some of that from Brock in the preseason. I think it was the 4th game vs. AZ where Brock’s first pass was an against the grain boot lob to Caldwell for about 80 yards and a TD, and the rest of the game he generated about 40 yards of passing offense. I’m not worried about Brock long term- consistency is something he’ll have to learn- but I do think that Peyton is the better short term solution (assuming the relatively healthy and reduced INT caveats).

          • jack

            Id argue that the Broncos have looked like a more complete team with Brock. Ignoring individual performances by the two, the running game looks vastly improved and the defense isnt being left in bad situations nearly as often. In general, when I’ve watched the last three games, I’ve been a lot less worried. This post is all about opinion as I’m offering no supporting facts but the team just looks better with Brock in there. I’m sticking with Brock and I hope the Broncos do as well no matter how healthy Manning gets. This is assuming Brock continues to play well.

          • anon76returns

            Everybody keeps saying how much better the running game looks with Brock, but I don’t really see it that way. The Broncos started out the season with the running game looking terrible (Balt & KC games), with RBs looking lost and the OL missing their assignments. The OL looked good vs. the Lions, but the RBs were still not running well. Following that game the OL and RBs got on the same page, and the result was that the Broncos put up 140+ yards in 3 of their next four games, all under Manning. That stretch was, IMO, as good as any running offense we’ve seen under Brock, and in that time Manning was beginning to hit big throws on the boot roll outs that are so important in a Kubiak system. The running game looked decent but took a back seat vs. Indy after the Broncos quickly went down 3 scores, and I’m not going to make anything out of the KC game, where no face of the offense was able to do anything because Manning was so compromised health wise.

            The bottom line for me is that Brock took over the helm of an offense with a running game that had been steadily improving all season, and the results from the Chi/NE/SD game don’t look markedly better to me than the results from the run game in the Cle/GB games that happened when Manning was taking snaps. Keep in mind, Chicago and SD rank 30th and 31st in rushing defense allowed per play, and Denver actually up less yards/carry against them than their average opponents.

  • Tim Edell

    Derek Wolfe has been an absolute beast these last couple of weeks.

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