Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead have combined for 123 targets on 295 passes this season. They are the offense’s playmakers on third down and Philip Rivers’ safety blanket when in trouble. If the Broncos’ safeties and linebackers can limit their effectiveness, the Broncos can greatly slow this offense and win big. If not, the Chargers could keep the game close by controlling possession and possibly scrape out a win.
Gates is an eight-time Pro-Bowl tight end and the clear focal point of the Chargers offensive attack. He is big – 6-foot-4, 255 pounds – has great hands and is athletic enough to not only run with defensive backs, but also, as a former collegiate basketball player, to position his big frame to go up and make acrobatic catches, as well as run for yards after the catch.
While Woodhead is not as physically gifted as Gates, he has created a niche for himself by being remarkably consistent. He averages 4.6 yards per carry throughout his career, and 9.8 yards per catch. He runs precise routes and once he has the ball in his hands, he uses his small body to get low and evade arm tackles for yards after contact.
Mike McCoy and the Chargers’ offensive coaching staff do a great job of getting Woodhead and Gates the ball in space; if the safeties and linebackers cannot contain them, the Broncos’ defense will have a tough time getting off the field on third down.
The men most responsible for winning this matchup will be Rahim Moore, Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan and, if Duke Ihenacho is unable to play (listed as questionable), veteran safety Mike Adams. While they are a fairly undersized group, they are extremely fast and all possess strong ball skills.
Though the Broncos will sorely miss Ihenacho’s physical style of play – especially in the red zone, Moore and Trevathan have shown tremendous progression in pass coverage this season, and have an opportunity to really make their mark on the game, and really the NFL in general, with a big performance this Sunday against a division rival and an All-Pro quarterback.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.