By Rich Kurtzman
In the rematch of the best game played all season, it all started eerily similar to the game in Week Six.
Broncos’ blunders led to an early Chargers lead, as this time Trindon Holliday let a punt go to the 12 and Peyton Manning threw a pick-six to give San Diego the 7-0 lead. Then Matt Prater missed a field goal in the first quarter and it seemed like Denver’s offense was off its game. Luckily, the Denver D stepped up to the plate and continued rushing the quarterback in an amazing way. They continually stuffed the San Diego run and put pressure on Rivers, forcing six straight punts to start the game. Then the Broncos’ offense came alive, marching down field for their first touchdown from Manning to Thomas. They took a 17-7 lead to halftime and never looked back.
The Broncos put up another 13 points in the second half and won 30-23, basically wrapping up the AFC West.
Offense Overall: B-
As a team, the Denver Broncos started very sloppily, and that included the offense. They punted, then Manning threw a pick-six to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead. But the Broncos’ offense got going, scoring twice in the first half with Manning to Thomas and Manning to Brandon Stokley touchdowns. The offense adapted well when Willis McGahee went out with a knee injury, as Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball ran the ball steadily.
After the break, they turned the Miller forced fumble into a touchdown, when Manning hit Decker and the receiver turned it up 20 yards into the end zone. They also got into field goal position two times in the fourth, to play well enough to win the game. It wasn’t an offensive explosion as in other weeks, but there was solid production, especially in the second half.
Defense Overall: A+
The Denver defense was electric once again this week, playing lights-out from the first kickoff.
Wesley Woodyard, who’s been huge all season, kept stuffing the line and tackling running backs, while Von Miller recorded two sacks in the first half. They forced seven straight punts by San Diego in before halftime, and kept the streak going after half, too. But not just forcing punts, in the second half, Miller kept menacing Rivers, sacking him and forcing another fumble, which Woodyard picked up and ran for 15 yards before being tackled.
In fact, the Broncos’ defense has been so domineering as of late, they had a streak of 26 straight third downs denied over the last four games. Late in the third quarter though, the Chargers drove and converted two third downs, and even scored a touchdown when Rivers hit Danario Alexander to make it 24-16.
They allowed another touchdown but held San Diego to 6-16 (37 percent) on third down while forcing three turnovers.
Special Teams Overall: B
Just like the rest of the team, the special teams started slowly. Holliday let a punt go to the 12 yard line and Denver started deep in their own end multiple times early. Then Matt Prater missed his first field goal of the day, a 55 yarder, but then hit the second, a 20-yard kick. And Nate Irving made the biggest play of the day, blocking Scifres’ punt and giving the Broncos a short field which they turned into a touchdown on the next play.
In the second half, the special teams was caught off guard and allowed the Chargers to get an onside kick. Prater also made a # yard field goal in the fourth quarter to widen the lead to 23-16.
John Fox made the correct call when, after the Broncos intercepted Rivers and had a fourth and two from the two yard line. He decided to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown, like Manning and the fans wanted. Jack Del Rio dialed up devastating defense all day long. He should be commended for how well the Denver D has done this season, especially against the Chargers.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.