San Diego Chargers (3-4) vs Denver Broncos (5-2)
Sunday October 30th, 1:05 PM on CBS
Sports Authority Field, Denver, Colorado
The San Diego Chargers are riding a two-game winning streak and head to the Rocky Mountains to take on their division rival, Denver Broncos, whom they beat less than two weeks ago. In a color rush, nationally televised game two Thursday nights ago, the Chargers got off to a lead and held on to win the game 21-13.
That game seemed to save the job of head coach Mike McCoy as he was under a ton of scrutiny for the play of his team. The Chargers, prior to their two-week winning streak, had successfully given away games to the Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, and Saints early this year.
Although the team has won their last two contests, there are still whispers of uncertainty about McCoy’s future with the team. The Chargers have suffered numerous injuries this season. In fact, the team has placed a league-high 16 players on IR this season. A simply incredible fact.
The injuries have taken place this season and there is no debating that fact, but the Chargers losses early this season were in second-half collapses, not by being blown-out because of lack of talent. Sure, depth is an issue, as once you lose a player, somebody has to step up, and someone off the street has to be signed to take their place. But the team lacks leadership in some capacities and ultimately that goes down as the head coach’s responsibility. His job seems safe at the moment, but another demoralizing loss or meltdown and the #FireMcCoy chatter could start again.
This Sunday in Denver, the Chargers will once again try to catch lightning in a bottle. The team was able to pressure Trevor Siemian last time as the Chargers collected two sacks on the night and had multiple instances in which they harassed and hit the QB. Jatavis Brown had a career night as he recorded 14 tackles and a sack and was all over the field for the Bolts. He will once again be a force to be dealt with as the Broncos try to establish the run and locate the tight ends over the middle of the field.
The Chargers have a great chance to get another win and earn the season sweep against the Broncos, but they must make sure the team is clicking in all facets of the game. Even the special teams play has to be on point, as field position will be key to who comes out victorious in this AFC West matchup. Lets take a look at some key points for the Chargers and what to look for this Sunday in Denver.
Chargers on Offense
The San Diego Chargers have had no problem scoring this season, but they could have issues this weekend in Denver. The altitude, combined with a very stout Denver defense indicates the team will have to fight for every yard they get. Last time out, the team scored 21 points on Denver’s defense despite only totaling 265 total yards in the contest. Philip Rivers threw for 166 yards on 18-29 passing. His only touchdown of the day was a five-yard TD pass to Hunter Henry with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Look for the Chargers to use both Henry and Antonio Gates in the middle of the field, along with a heavy dose of Melvin Gordon. The team will need to keep the score close, as they do not want to have to abandon the run by playing from behind in the game. A one-dimensional offense means Von Miller can just pin his ears back and attack Rivers at will. That will not be a pleasant sight to see for Chargers fans.
Chargers on Defense
Pressuring Trevor Siemian will be the key to victory. The second-year quarterback can be rattled if the Chargers can hit him and keep their presence known. Last time out the Bolts earned two sacks on the Broncos O-line with Jatavis Brown and Tourek Williams getting to Siemian. Joey Bosa played in the game, but only managed a single tackle on the night. Bosa did get into the backfield a few times and was harassing the Broncos’ QB. Expect coach Pagano to dial up some interesting blitz packages as the team attempts to get into the head of the Broncos young signal-caller. Dexter McCoil and Dwight Lowery will need to communicate and assist the corners, as the Broncos will try to attack downfield, with both Thomas and Sanders as their receivers. This will be a difficult game for the Chargers to win, but not impossible. The defense will be key at crunch time. I just have a feeling about that.
Players to Watch
Hunter Henry– For being a first year player, Henry has shown a lot of composure. He blocks well, he runs his routes well, and he has also shown great athleticism in his rookie campaign. Philip Rivers is quickly building a rapport with him. Henry got banged up last week and went through the league’s concussion protocol. He was practicing late in the week and should be good to go for the game this Sunday. He will be a factor.
Devontae Booker– The rookie out of Utah is now thrust into the spotlight as C.J. Anderson is out with an injured knee. It appears the Broncos will be without Anderson for quite a bit of time, so the rookie will need to step up immediately. Booker has a shiftiness about him, and this could turn out to be a blessing for Broncos fans. He does need to improve on his pass blocking, and that could be a factor on Sunday as the Chargers attack the Broncos offense.
Jatavis Brown- Last time out against the Broncos, Brown went off. He had a career night on the field and could be in store for another great performance on Sunday. With Denzel Perryman stepping up, the Chargers have two inside linebackers that can wreak havoc on the field. Both are very physical players that rely on instincts to play their position. The duo should feed off one another this 2016 season. On Sunday, they will be called on to lead this defense and keep them composed.
T.J. Ward– As the Chargers try to attack the Broncos, the play from the safeties is vital. Last time out, Ward recorded seven solo tackles on the night as he shadowed both Henry and Antonio Gates. Both tight ends will be a preferred target for Rivers, as will Gordon out of the backfield on wheel routes and such. The team will likely stay away from the receivers on the outside, with Aqib Talib likely covering Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman. Ward is very physical and the Chargers will need to watch out for him over the middle of the field.
Matchup to Watch
Brandon Flowers on Demaryius Thomas– It looks as though the veteran DB will play on Sunday despite missing the last handful of games with a concussion issue. The Bolts will welcome him back as he will likely spend the majority of his day covering Thomas. Casey Hayward will likely line up on Emanuel Sanders in the slot position, so the Chargers will be looking for Flowers to return to form. It will be a huge test for him, as Thomas is a beast and seems to have quality efforts against the Chargers time and time again. Last time out, he was limited to 35 yards on five catches. He will be eager to improve on those numbers, and with the running game banged up, the Broncos could be forcing the ball downfield a lot against the Chargers.
This will be a hard-fought game. It will be a physical game, as the Broncos are not pleased about losing to this Chargers team already. Look for Von Miller to be very active and also look for some offensive line communication issues. That will be the deciding factor as the Bolts are able to drive down the field in the closing minutes. Josh Lambo will kick another game winning field goal as the Chargers escape Denver with a 27-26 victory. Hey, it can happen.