SD-DEN Grades: Jackson, defense force Rivers’ lowest grade
Here are the top takeaways and highest graded players from Denver’s 27-20 win over San Diego.
– When the Broncos made the switch back to QB Peyton Manning (+0.3) in the second half of this one, there was a noticeable change in the Denver attack. Gone were the long dropbacks, muddy pockets, and slower-developing outside zone runs, and in their place were the quick-hit throws and inside zone runs from the shotgun, along with a more urgent—and confident—overall pace. In short, the Broncos looked more like the Broncos again and it worked. Manning didn’t hit on any deep shots or game-breaking throws, but his presence was felt.
– The Denver front, as expected, abused the San Diego O-line, and did so with even more regularity than many would have guessed. As a group, they racked up three sacks, three hits and 33 hurries—a huge chunk of which came by way of bullrush, as they simply powered through the patchwork Charger group. Derek Wolfe (+4.6), Malik Jackson (+5.5), and Von Miller (+3.0) collected the sacks and formed three-fourths of a defensive quartet (along with DeMarcus Ware) that each notched at least seven total pressures.
– Despite being on the hook for a couple hits and a hurry surrendered in pass protection, center Matt Paradis (+5.1) came away with his highest game grade of the season, and his third straight solid score on the back of some fine work as a run blocker. Winning his one-on-one’s at the line and having success chasing down San Diego linebacker Manti Te’o in the second level as well, Paradis is on a roll heading into the playoffs.
DE Malik Jackson (+5.5)
C Matt Paradis (+5.1)
DE Derek Wolfe (+4.6)
G Evan Mathis (+4.5)
G Max Garcia (+3.3)
San Diego Chargers
– Rough outing for quarterback Philip Rivers (-7.0), who managed 12 forced and/or off-target throws and picked up the majority of his completions under the Denver coverage. The approach was understandable, as he was pressured on 26 of his 39 dropbacks, and was often found just getting the ball out before trouble arrived. He did take advantage of a wide-open post on a coverage bust for the long TD to Tyrell Williams, and old friend Antonio Gates secured a jump ball at the goal line for another score, but the big picture for Rivers on the day was not a positive one.
– Cornerback Stephen Williams (-1.1) filled up the stat sheet with a sack, a pair of forced fumbles (one recovered) and an interception, but got himself into enough trouble outside of those high points that his overall grade suffered. Williams gave up six catches on the eight targets he saw (five for first downs), was saved by deep overthrows on the other two balls, and he missed four tackles. Mitigating factors worked to limit his grade on some of the highlight plays – the sack was unblocked, the interception was on a tipped ball, and the first forced fumble came after he was beaten for a long gain.
– Running back Donald Brown (+1.9) and rookie receiver Tyrell Williams (-0.7) had notable efforts on the offensive side for San Diego. Brown churned his way to his second green-graded (above +1.0) day in the past three weeks, forcing a pair of missed tackles and picking up 55 of his 81 yards after contact, while Williams had some more severe ups and downs. Targeted only once before this week, Williams saw five balls against the Broncos, and two of them turned out to be especially important to the game’s story. Early in the fourth quarter, Williams was gifted an 80-yard score by CB Aqib Talib’s mistake on the deep route and then, with five minutes left in a tie game, the rookie couldn’t bring in an overthrown ball, watching as it went through his hands and into the waiting grasp of Denver’s safety for an interception.
OLB Melvin Ingram (+3.1)
HB Donald Brown (+1.9)
TE Antonio Gates (+1.3)
LB Denzel Perryman (+0.5)
WR Javontee Herndon (+0.5)