CBy Rich Kurtzman
This wasn’t the game everyone thought they’d see. Neither the Denver Broncos nor the San Diego Chargers could operate efficiently on offense as a mere four field goals were scored before halftime. Denver wasn’t able to punch the ball in from the one yard line twice and had to settle for Connor Barth kicks. It was 9-3, a Broncos lead at the break, the first time since 1991 in a matchup between these two teams that neither could score a touchdown in the first half. It was only a matter of time, though, as Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas synced up on a back shoulder fade and then Thomas turned it up field and into the end zone for the 16-3 lead. Philip Rivers answered with a slant touchdown to Antonio Gates to make it 16-10, Broncos. Barth’s 49-yard boot pushed the lead to 19-10 late in the fourth. Barth nailed a 44-yarder as well for the 22-10 victory.
Peyton Manning didn’t participate in pregame warmups and was sick before the contest. It seemed to show in his performance and the Broncos decided to favor the run to begin the game. C.J. Anderson ran strong like he has for weeks, as did Juwan Thompson with power. Running the ball also helped run the clock, limiting the Chargers’ possessions to three. Julius Thomas added that missing extra dimension in the passing game, catching a long one down the sideline to set up one of those field goals. Denver finally scored a touchdown when Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on the team’s first drive of the second half to take the 16-3 advantage. Then Manning marched his team down and into field goal range – despite Will Montgomery’s hold – for a key late-game kick.
Denver’s defense was the strong point of the squad on Sunday. They were incredibly stout up front, disallowing the run of San Diego. Chris Harris was a standout against Keenan Allen in the pass game and they only allowed one field goal and a mere four first downs in the first half. After the break, they stopped San Diego on another drive and Nick Novak doinked the football off the left upright. In the fourth quarter, Rivers led his team on a touchdown drive, finishing with a throw to Gates on a slant on T.J. Ward. With the Chargers looking for a last-minute score, Aqib Talib picked off Rivers to seal the deal. Then, Rahim Moore intercepted Rivers to finally finish off the win.
Special Teams: B
Connor Barth was 3-3 on field goals in the first half and made his clutch 49-yard kick in the fourth quarter. The 44-yarder was good, too, for 5-5 on the day. The punt return team was very bad, allowing Eddie Royal to return the ball all the way to the 20 but the defense saved them. Derek Wolfe impressed with a blocked field goal up the gut of the line, arguably the special teams’ best play of the year. Before a critical fourth quarter drive the kickoff return team committed a hold penalty which moved the offense back to their own 12 yard line.
Denver’s coaches were head-scratchingly bad in the first half. On one drive, they had a 2nd and goal from the one and threw the ball twice, both incompletions, and settled for a field goal. Then, Peyton Manning had to leave the game during the team’s drive just before the two minute warning and they couldn’t punch the ball in from the one yard line. They didn’t go for it on 4th and one foot, electing to kick the field goal instead. And when backup Brock Osweiler was asked to throw the ball twice on his first two snaps, almost throwing an interception. Those coaching gaffes didn’t stop the Broncos from winning, but they kept it closer than it should’ve been.
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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. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.