Grades For Denver Broncos vs San Diego Chargers MNF Matchup
Cry Me a Rivers...Broncos Magical MNF Comeback
The Denver Broncos played last night in what many have called a tale of two halves. It is certainly evident that against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos came out once again flat on offense and special teams while playing mistake-prone football as they have done in almost every game so far this season. So where do the Broncos go from here?
After winning 35-24 last night, it is understood that nobody should ever count the Peyton Manning-led Broncos out of a game. But how much longer can they keep playing poor first half football and asking Manning to lead them once more to second half success? These answers can only be found in the locker room, and it seems as if they are only found at halftime.
Do you blame the coaches or the players for the unfocused play in the first two quarters? I don't even know if there is an answer to that. It would truly be amazing, however, to see what this team could do in a full 60 minutes of football. The closest they have come was playing three quarters of quality football back in week four against the Oakland Raiders. While special teams and an interception by Manning were the culprits last night, again, the halftime pep talk in the locker needs to be bottled up and sold at the gates before the game.
Here are my grades for all aspects of the greatest Monday Night Football comeback ever in its 667th game as the Broncos found themselves down 24-0 against Philip Rivers and his Chargers team looking to build a two game lead in the AFC West. It was no to be fulfilled, though, as Manning showed once again just why he is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
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Denying Father Time "A+"
What did Peyton Manning do last night that was so different than what we have seen over the course of his career? Absolutely nothing.
Manning must have took a lot of notes while he was in the hospitals getting four neck operations, because he was absolutely surgical in the second half against the Chargers while only missing one pass.
There is no other grade to give a QB that goes 24-30 for 309 yards, 3TDs and 1INT. He now has a QB Rating of 105.0 on the year and has regained his composure as one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.
Run Game Took a Back Seat "B-"
Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman had a front row seat for one of the greatest clinics ever performed on Monday Night Football. Neither had to do too much running, but both were there when Manning needed to dump a quick screen or get a block.
Who needed a running game when the greatest QB of all time was marching down the field after a ferocious defense kept giving the offense the ball back.
Wide Receivers All Day "A"
Eric Decker had the blooper of the year when he tripped over a blade of grass after a 50 yard catch that should have been a TD. However, Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley ran their routes well, found the open field and produced TD catches in the second half.
The presence of these three amigos was impressive being the secondary that the Chargers offered in the first half. The grab by Stokley in the end zone was reminiscent of vintage Manning putting the ball where nobody but the receiver can make a play.
Tight Ends Did Just Enough "B"
I say the TEs did just enough mainly because they helped with key blocks and certain pivotal catches to keep the chains moving. Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme might not be two of the top tight ends in the game, but they are just the right personnel to have on the field for this offense.
Offensive Line Complete and Solid "B+"
With Chris Kuper getting his first start, the offensive line is finally complete. It showed as Manning was protected very nicely from a fierce first half pass rush that seemed not to be able to close the deal.
While the line did not do enough to open the holes for McGahee, at the point where you are down 24-0 because of turnovers and mistakes, there will no be much running left to do. As long as Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, Orlando Franklin, Dan Koppen and Kuper keep a tight reign on Manning, then all will go very well.
Pass Rush Dominated the Second Half "B+"
Philip Rivers had some time in the first half to get a groove going. Yet it was the turnovers that put them in position to lead 24-0 at the half. The pass rush was there all along, but it was absolutely ferocious in the second half.
Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller and Derek Wolfe led the charge with sacks, batted balls, forced fumbles and just walking all over the Chargers offensive line. This is how everyone envisioned this unit in 2012, and they need to find a way to keep this momentum after the bye week.
Linebackers Were Key Late "B+"
The linebackers with Keith Brooking in the middle look like a completely different unit. More upbeat, timely and aware are the key words that I would use when describing them. There was a brief point where Miller took a breather and Nate Irving came in and you didn't even notice a drop-off as he quickly made the first tackle behind the line.
If this unit can become more stable in the coming weeks, then when they finally get D.J. Williams back in three weeks, the defense will be complete, and completely dominating.
Secondary Was Ferocious "A"
When news of Tracy Porter being sick and not traveling with the team came out, I was one of those people that questioned how the Broncos would react. Question answered.
Chris Harris, Tony Carter and Jim Leonhard had excellent games combining for 4 Rivers interceptions and rendering the Chargers receivers useless in the second half. Kudos to them for providing the stability needed to mount a comeback of epic proportion.
Special Teams Came Up Short...No Pun Intended "C"
In a game where mistakes were critical, the special teams of the Broncos began with newly acquired Trindon Holliday fumbling the ball on a punt return and Omar Bolden not looking much better. Matt Prater was only needed for extra points and Britton Colquitt had two punts inside the 20. Would rather see Leonhard back there until Holliday proves he can be an asset.
Crazy as a Fox? "B"
If this is going to be the mantra of this John Fox-led Broncos team for here on out, then I will not bother watching any more first halves. What is the problem, John? Why does your team come out looking disinterested and mental in the first half of EVERY game, only to mount prolific comebacks.
Maybe it's the joy and wonder if Manning can do this week in and week out? Maybe Fox does not really know how to game plan with a Hall of Fame QB and needs his halftime adjustments to work out the kinks. Either way, whatever he says in the locker room at halftime is golden, because nobody in the NFL has done it better in 2012. This grade could easily be an "A+" every game if they would just play four quarters.