ReFo: Broncos @ Chargers, Week 15
A matchup between two offensive juggernauts turned into a field goal fest Sunday in San Diego. The two teams combined to go 1-8 scoring touchdowns in red zone opportunities as neither offensive line could generate push near the goal line. The Chargers run blocking was anemic once again and an early deficit forced the onus of the offense onto Philip Rivers. The problem for the Chargers was that Broncos secondary performed as well, if not better, than their run defense and two fourth quarter interceptions sealed the victory for Denver.
The win clinches the AFC West for the Broncos, but they have yet to wrap up a first round bye and are still in contention for home field advantage throughout. The loss drops the Chargers to 8-6 and puts them in a precarious position for the Wild-Card race. They trail the 9-5 Steelers and Ravens and sit with identical records as the Bills and Chiefs.
Denver Broncos – Performances of Note
Aqib Talib, CB: +3.8
Breakdown: The Broncos are as scary as anyone on the backend when Aqib Talib is at the top of his game, and that’s precisely what he was on Sunday. He allowed 17 yards on 3 of 6 passing with two pass break ups and an interception. Talib yielded just six yards after the catch all day and didn’t allow a first down catch until the Chargers final drive in the fourth quarter. This was without a doubt his best showing of the season.
Signature Stat: Talib had a +7.1 overall grade in two games against the Chargers this season with four passes defended and four stops.
Demaryius Thomas, WR: +4.0
Breakdown: That’s the form we’ve come to expect from Thomas. After a couple lackluster performances, the Broncos wide receiver went to work on Brandon Flowers. Thomas comprised 53% of the Broncos passing yards on the day with six catches for 123 yards (106 against Flowers) including 51 yards after the catch and a touchdown.
Signature Play: Not many players can make a 28 yard back shoulder touchdown catch and run look routine, but that’s exactly what Thomas did late in the third quarter. The body control it took to stop on a dime, pluck the ball out of the air, and then get right back to full speed is amazing for a player his size.
Von Miller, OLB: -2.0
Breakdown: A very rare off game for Miller and easily his worst grade of the season. He never could quite turn the edge rushing the passer as D.J. Fluker routinely pushed him past Rivers drop and allowed for easy step up lanes. Against the run Miller failed to get a stop for the fourth straight week.
Signature Stat: Miller’s one pressure is his lowest output since Week 15 of last year.
San Diego Chargers – Performances of Note
Chad Rinehart, LG: -6.2
Breakdown: Sunday was the low point in what has been an awful season for the Chargers left guard. He was manhandled from start to finish by Malik Jackson and Terrance Knighton. To make matters worse, Rinehart was the right guard on the field goal team that got bull rushed by Derek Wolfe before he blocked the kick midway through the second quarter. A poor showing in all aspects of the game.
Signature Play: On a third and five with 5:40 to go in the first quarter, Rinehart was walked back by a bull rush from Malik Jackson right into Rivers’ lap during his throwing motion, forcing an errant throw.
Melvin Ingram, OLB: +2.1
Breakdown: It’s easy to forget that Ingram made two potentially game changing plays that the Chargers failed to capitalize on. Ingram forced two sacks for fumbles on the day with the first being recovered by Denver and the second negated by penalty. If either of those resulted in a turnover the game would have looked much differently. On 17 pass rushes Ingram generated two of the Chargers four total pressures on the day and came away with a +3.1 pass rushing grade. A feat made more impressive by the fact that Peyton Manning averaged 2.0 seconds to attempt.
Signature Play: On the first pass play of the game Ingram went with a pure speed rush on left tackle Ryan Clady, ducking around the edge and swatting Clady’s hands away to maintain his leverage. Manning never saw the blindside pressure and Ingram knocked the ball loose, but the ball bounced right to Clady’s feet and he recovered it.
Philip Rivers, QB: -2.1
Breakdown: Rivers was forced to throw into tight windows repeatedly in the first three quarters so it was no surprise that Rivers was picked on two late throws in obvious passing situations late in the fourth. His receivers weren’t creating space downfield and Rivers predictably struggled in that area, completing just 4 of 11 passes targeted 10+ yards past the line of scrimmage. This led to Rivers throwing to an Average Depth of Target of just 6.4, more than two yards shorter than his season average.
Signature Stat: Rivers was pressured on seven of his 42 dropbacks. Those 35 unpressured dropbacks produced a quarterback rating of 62.1 and just 5.6 yards per attempt.
PFF Game Ball
Aqib Talib narrowly edges out Demaryius Thomas with his clutch play to earn this game ball.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner