5 Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Either Win or Lose Against The San Diego Chargers
Looking For a Mile High Salute on MNF
The Denver Broncos will face yet another daunting task on Monday Night Football this week when they visit the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The only saving grace is that in recent times, the Broncos actually play better against the Chargers in San Diego than they do in Denver. But this is a completely different team than the one they have fielded before and the outcome may not be as easy to determine until they play the game.
So far this year, the Broncos have played against some of the top teams in the NFL and surprisingly, while only starting the year 2-3, they have not completely embarrassed themselves. Of course there are holes and mistakes to be fixed, but the offense has held their own and other than third downs and two bad games against the run, the defense has looked better than in year's past.
Both of these teams come in to Monday night with a lot on the line. For the Chargers, it is trying to build a two game lead in the AFC West while trying to rebound from a difficult loss last week to the New Orleans Saints.
For the Broncos, they have an opportunity to wash some of the bad taste out of their mouths from failed fourth quarter comebacks, lost opportunities and costly mistakes, and break even with the Chargers for the division lead before the bye week. Here are five reasons why the Broncos will either win or lose their Monday night matchup with their division rival Chargers.
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Costly Mistakes Will Ruin a Season
The Broncos have had every opportunity to win football games this year against some of the elite talent in the league. The Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and New England Patriots beat the Broncos by 6, 6 and 10 points, respectively, which are not exactly blowout losses.
The main issue has been the early mistakes that have allowed those teams to build a solid lead that was insurmountable for a Broncos team that needed a few games to mesh on all fronts. Demaryius Thomas comes into Monday night's game with three fumbles, and all at the most inopportune time. The same goes for Willis McGahee and his two fumbles on the season and a dropped pass which would have been an easy first down in last week's game against the Patriots.
Add those mistakes with Peyton Manning's three INTs in the opening quarter of the Falcons game and you have a recipe for disaster. Even with those mistakes, the Broncos made a game of it in the second half after adjustments from both coaches and players. It's as simple as this: If the Broncos can play mistake-free football for four quarters, they will win. The Chargers are too good to allow extra opportunities.
Pass Rush Must Be Visible
Von Miller comes into this game with five sacks on the year, but realistically, a couple of them have come in garbage time and the overall pass rush has been nonexistent for long stretches. If this pass rush that includes Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe and Miller do not find consistency within Jack Del Rio's system, then it will be a long year for the Broncos.
Opposing QBs have had too much time in the pocket to make their reads and checkdowns, and when you are playing against the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Tom Brady, the lack of pass rush will be well noted and exposed. This is a defensive unit that was poised to become the next version of the great "Orange Crush" defenses of the 80's. So far, they have resembled nothing like those defenses that included Broncos greats such as Karl Mecklenburg, Simon Fletcher, Tom Jackson and others.
The key to the game will be to put pressure on Rivers and make him scramble while running for his life. Like Tom Brady, Rivers can get rattled and make mistakes that the Broncos can capitalize upon. Without a pass rush, Rivers will be able to find his man on any part of the field while spreading Denver's defense too thin.
San Diego Run Game Will Be the Key
It's a simple philosophy when you take the field in any football game. If you allow over 150 yards rushing to your opponent, more times than not, you will lose that game. Such was the case against the Texans when the Broncos allowed 152 yards on the ground, and against the Patriots when they gave up 252 yards.
If the Broncos allow Jackie Battle and Ryan Mathews to own the field, then that will open the game up for Rivers to take control and sustain long drives. Both backs are good downhill runners that can exploit the gaps in the line and expose the linebackers when in the second zone.
Denver's front seven must stick to their assignments and tackle well, or this will be a very ugly loss. Take away the run, and the Broncos eliminate the play action pass by Rivers who will be just itching to win another showdown against the hated Broncos.
Offensive Line Must Open Holes For McGahee
On the flip side to stopping the San Diego run game, the Broncos themselves must be able to run the ball with Willis McGahee. The key here will be the play of the Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Zane Beadles, Chris Kuper and Dan Koppen who will need to not only protect Manning, but be able to open the gates for McGahee to do what he does best: be the workhorse that keeps the chains moving.
So far, the linemen have been good one game, mediocre the next when trying to get the run game started and need to find the consistency in front of Mcgahee in order for him to top the century mark on Monday. The Chargers pose the challenge of the league's 5th best run defense and will be the most formidable opponent yet. If McGahee does top the 100 yard mark and all other aspects of this game go as planned, there is no reason for the Broncos can not take the lead in the AFC West by virtue of a tiebreaker.
Which Coach Will Game Plan Better
For some reason, Broncos Head Coach John Fox has seen his team come out sluggish from the gate in every game this season, except for the first quarter against the Raiders. Some might say it was the team still getting to know each other and trying to find it's rhythm. I'm going to say it is the coaches fault when five games in a row, your team can not get out of its own way and commit mental mistakes while putting themselves in a hole. I can also back that up and say that Fox does push the right buttons at halftime as it seems this team reacts well to the adjustments.
Fox needs to challenge Del Rio and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to call better plays and have their players prepped and on the same page. Fox is the perfect coach for this team right now, and the second half of the season will be proof of that. On the other sideline, there stands Norv Turner who is a good regular season game planner that has weapons at his disposal that most coaches wished they had.
The issue remains that championships are not won in October and when it comes to a big game, maybe Turner over-evaluates and takes his team out of the game. He will have his Chargers prepared, but will he, himself, be prepared to out coach the Fox?