DEN-SD grades: Chargers rookies shine in low-scoring win

The highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from San Diego’s Thursday win over the Denver Broncos.

| 1 week ago
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

DEN-SD grades: Chargers rookies shine in low-scoring win

San Diego Chargers 21, Denver Broncos 13

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Chargers’ 21-13 win over the Broncos:

Denver Broncos

Quarterback grade: Trevor Siemian, 40.5

The book is out on Siemian

Teams are figuring out the Denver quarterback: Force him to throw deep. And chances are he still won’t. Even with the Broncos behind late in the game and needing multiple scores, Siemian still refused to throw anything other than underneath routes. On the day he completed only one of his nine attempts targeted 10-plus yards down the field. Those are abysmal numbers and the Chargers exploited it by squatting on underneath routes and giving Siemian nowhere to go.

Top offensive grades:

C Matt Paradis, 79.9
RB C.J. Anderson, 77.5
TE John Phillps, 74.4
FB Andy Janovich, 70.5
RB Devontae Booker, 70.5

Disappearing act for Thomas

One would think that, with 53 passing dropbacks, the Broncos’ highest-paid receiver would be featured heavily and put up some legit numbers. Instead he did the exact opposite and actively hurt the Broncos on his 10 targets. He had a crucial drop midway through the third quarter that could have turned into a first down, and the Broncos would be forced to punt two plays later. Then he had the (for all intents and purposes) game-ending fumble with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter. It was Thomas’ fourth drop and second fumble on the year in what’s been a lackluster start to his season.

Top defensive grades:

ILB Brandon Marshall, 87.4
OLB Von Miller, 84.3
CB Bradley Roby, 77.9
DT Sylvester Williams, 76.7
OLB Shaq Barrett, 76.4

Defense makes stops when it counts

It was an interesting night for the Denver defense. At times they struggled to get off the field as San Diego went on several long drives. But when it came down to needing to make a stop in the red zone, they were able to buckle down and get the top. After the Chargers’ opening drive, they made it to the red zone on four more occasions, yet Denver held them to field goals each time and allowed just 19 points. Von Miller and Brandon Marshall led the way on defense, particularly against the run where they combined for eight run stops. Bradley Roby had his first two pass breakups of the year. The Broncos were able to pressure Philip Rivers on 38 percent of his dropbacks, but were only able to convert that into one sack on the night.


San Diego Chargers

Quarterback grade: Philip Rivers 67.9

Rivers calm under pressure

Philip Rivers wasn’t extremely productive, but he did have a mistake-free game in terms of turnover-worthy plays. He had some inaccurate throws and on passes outside the numbers and 10-plus yards downfield, he was just 1-for-5 for 18 yards. Rivers was actually at his best when he was under pressure. On his nine targeted throws, he completed eight of them including the Chargers’ lone touchdown of the game.

Top offensive grades:

T King Dunlap, 78.4
TE Hunter Henry, 73.1
T Joe Barksdale, 71.7
HB Melvin Gordon, 68.1
QB Philip Rivers, 67.9

Offense scores just enough in win

On several occasions the Chargers sustained long drives only to stall and have to settle for short field goals. Left guard Orlando Franklin threw Broncos’ DL Jared Crick to the ground on one play that helped spring HB Melvin Gordon for a 48-yard run, but otherwise the Chargers’ running game was largely ineffective. Gordon’s long run went for more yards than his 26 other carries combined (46) and he averaged less than 1.8 yards per carry on those 26 runs. Not a single Chargers player finished with an above-average run-blocking grade. While Hunter Henry struggled as a run-blocker, he had a solid game receiving, with six catches for 83 yards, both career-highs, and a touchdown for the third consecutive week.


Top defensive grades:

ILB Jatavis Brown, 85.5
ILB Korey Toomer, 84.6
OLB Melvin Ingram, 82.2
DE Joey Bosa, 82.0
NT Brandon Mebane, 80.7

San Diego rookies make big impact

This isn’t your 2015 Chargers run defense or anything close to resembling it. San Diego finally has the horses up front to not only limit a run game, but stop it in its tracks. Outside of a few runs late in the game, the Broncos running backs had nowhere to go for most of the game. A big reason for their defensive success was the rookie duo of Joey Bosa and Jatavis Brown. Brown had a huge sack and forced fumble down the stretch while Bosa was consistently applying pressure throughout the game with five hurries and a hit.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Malachi

    franklin just swats crick like a fly. oi. not even a dominant block but the result was indeed, helluva right hook

  • crosseyedlemon

    I think the Broncos OC needs to accept much of the blame here. Putting a kid with just 5 career starts in a position where he needs to throw 50 times is bound to lead to disaster. Denver had no run game to provide support while the Chargers followed the example of the Falcons last week and had a nicely balanced attack.

    • Phil

      I agree, the Broncos OC f*cked up by not having a more balanced attack. 50 drop backs and only 15 run attempts? Stupid. Why not give it to Booker more than 5 times? He was averaging more than 9 yards per carry and almost 8 yards after contact.

      • VonSwenson

        31 of those dropbacks were in the fourth quarter when they were frantically trying to come back.

  • Bill the Cat

    Siemian is simply being exposed for what I always said he is, an average QB with average skills.

    • TJ Smith

      He is a first year QB drafted at the bottom of the draft. You want props for saying he was average. Think most are hoping just for average until Paxton is ready. Anything above that is gold. The Broncos won the SB with below average QB play.

      Offense is a problem to a point with Denver. My biggest issue is the weapons are not very good. Sanders is the only consistent player over the last 2 years. They have the worst pass catching TEs in the league. The backs are mediocre as receivers. If not worse. The third and fourth receivers aren’t any good. They need the defense to be amazing because they don’t have much offensive talent. They had Knowshon Moreno catching 60 passes and Julius Thomas and Wes Welker a few years ago. The players who have replaced them are non factors in the receiving game. Which in reality was a big cause for Peyton Manning just falling off a cliff. He really wanted to attack the middle of the field and not having Wes and JT killed that.

      As for the defense Bronco fans are going to have to admit they miss Malik Jackson. They can’t stop the run and the interior pass rush isn’t close to last year. Wolfe has been ok but teaming him with Malik was incredible.

      • cyberry

        If Manning would have started the last 7 games of last season.. Does Denver even make it to the Play-offs?

      • AJ

        I felt that way about the TEs especially against Atlanta. No TE caught any passes in that game (not sure if any were even targeted), so they may as well have left them in to help block on the right side.

  • Chirho

    We all know the real reason Denver lost were those terrible unis.