Monthly Archives: October 2014
The Chargers are in Denver tonight to battle the division leading Broncos. This is a statement game for the Bolts and one that the entire nation will be tuned into waiting to see who will reign supreme in the AFC West.
Tonight’s game is a battle for the lead of the division. San Diego comes in after a tough loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos are on top of the standings and they embarrassed the 49ers last Sunday night. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning secured the all-time touchdown pass record passing Brett Favre and he now has 510 scoring passes for his career.
The Chargers have been decimated by injuries and come into the game with a patchwork secondary and running back corps. No one, including the Bolts, is going to feel sorry for San Diego; especially the Broncos. Injuries happen to all 32 teams in the NFL, and the “Next man up” mantra is in full effect. The team must come out and find ways to utilize all of the players that will be on the field. There cannot be any thoughts toward those players that are not available to play.
There are many ways for the San Diego Chargers to beat the Denver Broncos. Below I’ll highlight my five keys to obtaining a victory on the road at Sports Authority field this evening.
1) John Pagano must call an aggressive, attacking defensive gameplan.
This is not a game where the corners can play ten yards off the ball. Getting hands on receivers and disrupting routes is paramount to defensive success for the Bolts. Exotic-like blitzes and disguising coverages should be the focal point of the Charger defense. When watching the game against the Chiefs, the Chargers went vanilla far too often. In the defense’s defense, they were exhausted toward the end of the game due to being on the field for 39 minutes when all was said and done. Pagano cannot call that soft-shell cover two or cover three defense where there cornerbacks are playing far off of the Denver wide receivers. Peyton will slice and dice the San Diego defense if that is the case. The outcome of this game will be determined by many factors. But much of the emphasis toward winning lies on the shoulders of defensive coordinator John Pagano and his gameplan.
2) Philip Rivers must utilize and trust Branden Oliver in the passing game.
One of the major things that stuck out to me during the KC game was Rivers had the opportunity to check down to Oliver in the flat and he still forced the ball into tight windows and covered receivers. At least two of the plays where Philip was sacked he had Branden open in the flat. Give your playmakers a chance to make plays. And, by the way, if you haven’t noticed it yet, Oliver makes plays. Rivers must trust him to make the first guy miss – which he does more often than not – and see what happens from there. Although I refuse to compare Oliver to former Charger Darren Sproles, Philip must find a way to trust Oliver the same way he did Sproles as an outlet/safety valve.
3) Hit Peyton Manning in the mouth early and often.
Manning is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. But like all quarterbacks in the league, putting pressure and disrupting his throws will force him to make mistakes or throw errant passes. His arm is not what it once was earlier in his career. Quite honestly, it is obvious when watching tape on Peyton. That being said, give him time and he’ll tear you apart. The weapons that Manning has at his disposal provide him with an arsenal that could make most signal callers look like a HOFer.
4) The Chargers, despite a depleted and banged up backfield, must run the ball and control time of possession.
Here I go talking about the importance of an undrafted free-agent out of Buffalo. Branden Oliver is quite possibly the x-factor in this game. Oliver must carry the ball at least twenty times for the Bolts to secure a victory. Draw plays that force players like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller into the backfield will allow the Chargers to take advantage of the Bronco’s speed rushers. Although he needs no added pressure, Branden must have a career game – though he is in the infantile stages of his time in the NFL – in order for San Diego to come out victorious. We all saw it in last year’s win over Denver on Thursday night. Ryan Mathews’ ability to chew up clock and wear out the Bronco defense proved to be the main reason San Diego was able to pull off a 27-20 victory. Oliver must have a similar performance to what Mathews put up last year.
5) Find a way to slow down the Thomas brothers.
When examining the Bronco offense, tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas are tearing up the league. Their dominance of the NFL is well documented. Add in Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, and there is no reason to not give the Broncos the title of the team with the best offensive weapons in the league. Neutralizing and slowing down Julius and Demaryius is crucial to achieving the W in Denver. This is a tall task for any defense, much less a Charger D that has been devastated by injuries. Whether it’s a robber over the top or a bracket to ensure neither player has much running room, Pagano has to draw up his best coverage schemes of his short career as a defensive coordinator.
There are many other keys to defeating the Broncos tonight. But those are the five that stand out to me when looking at a way for the Bolts to fly home from Denver with the lead in the AFC West.
We’re a little over three hours from the beginning of the game. Can you feel it? Are you hyped? Are you ready to get loud, regardless of where you are, when the Chargers get that much-needed win? I know I am.
The San Diego Super Chargers win this contest on a late-game field goal by kicker extraordinaire, Nick Novak, 33-31. This game will be the best Thursday night football game of the entire season. Book it.
Thanks a lot for reading.
One look at that headline will have even a devout Chargers fan raising an eyebrow, probably both eyebrows. Tonight, San Diego goes to Denver to face a surging Bronco team four days after losing their first game in over a month against Kansas City. The Broncos are coming off a big win in their Sunday Night Football home game against San Francisco. In that game Peyton Manning broke the all-time NFL record for touchdown passes and his toteboard stands at 510 career touchdowns. Denver gets to stay, heal and rest at home while the Chargers go into high altitude to face their nemesis.
So how does this work to San Diego’s advantage?
The 5-1 Broncos are on a high after taking over first place in the AFC West and celebrating Manning’s record at home. Are the Broncos overlooking the Chargers? Definitely not. No matter who the division opponent, it is going to be a difficult game. The Chargers have proven to be the Broncos toughest opponent in the division. How quickly can the Broncos shift from the euphoria of their last game and get back into the proper state of mind to face the wounded Bolts?
San Diego narrowly lost at home against Kansas City in what was easily their worst played game of the season. They could not stay on the field as the plodding Kansas City offense dominated time of the possession. On top of that, the injuries continued to mount. Denver is definitely a game where you want to have all hands on deck to give yourself a puncher’s chance of winning.
The Chargers find themselves hamstrung in the one area you definitely don’t want to be hamstrung when facing Peyton Manning; in the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Flowers, signed by the Chargers in the offseason, has excelled as a starter in the secondary. Flowers left the Chief game with a concussion after a violent hit on Jamaal Charles as the ball carrier crossed the goal line for a score. According to the analytics based site Pro Football Focus, Flowers is the best cornerback in the league. He has been ruled out for the game. Rookie cornerback Jason Verrett is rated second. Verrett (shoulder) is ruled questionable for Thursday, as is cornerback Steve Williams. Williams is the Chargers 2013 fifth round draft pick who missed all of last season. Williams has also performed admirably in his first on the field work.
Combined with those injuries is the instability on the defensive unit with Te’o ruled out and his replacement Kavell Conner, also among the walking wounded but at least scheduled to play. Rookie Jeremiah Attaochu has added some bite to the pass rush alongside Dwight Freeney, but Attaochu is fighting a hamstring issue and Freeney is playing but hampered with a knee injury. The key to beating Peyton Manning is getting pressure on him. If the key components are not able to play, the Chargers chances of pulling out a road victory seem bleak at best.
Therein lies the rub, as they say.
The Broncos are fully aware of the Chargers injury woes. Peyton Manning is licking his chops knowing he will be facing a depleted San Diego secondary. We all know Peyton will not take the game for granted. But what about his teammates? His coaches? If there is such a thing as a good time to take advantage of the Broncos, it is now when they don’t have a full week to prepare. We all saw what happened when the Chargers found themselves in the same position last season. The Bolts went on the road and faced the Broncos on Thursday night and won 27-20. Denver was 12-2 at the time and had won five of their last six games.
Our team is not without advantages of their own. No team has been more successful slowing down the high-octane offense of the Broncos than the team from Ameica’s finest city. San Diego implemented an often imitated ball control offense based on a balanced run game and short passing game to chew up clock and leave Manning where he can do the least damage – on the bench. Aside from the Super Bowl, the three games the Broncos scored their lowest amount of points (regular season and playoffs) were their three games against the Chargers.
Let’s not discount the gunslinger on the other side of the field. Philip Rivers has been, for all intents and purposes, Manning’s equal this season. Rivers is the third highest rated quarterback in the league, while Manning is ninth. At the moment, Rivers is ahead of Manning in passing yards but the Broncos have had their bye week already. For all the fanfare Manning gets, he’s only thrown two more touchdown passes than Rivers (19 to 17) and both have only thrown three interceptions all season.
The Broncos feature elite pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Additionally, they have a strong secondary featuring Aqib Talib, TJ Ward and Chris Harris Jr. With the instability that has been the Charger offensive line, this would seem to be a huge advantage. Rivers doesn’t get the respect Manning does when it comes to blitzing. Defenses know not to blitz Manning. Rivers is one of the most blitzed quarterbacks in the league. The Arizona Cardinals blitzed Rivers on 57% of the plays in their Monday Night Football season opener. Seattle blitzed Rivers over 50% of the time.
Rivers loves blitzes. Despite a shaky offensive line, Rivers has only been sacked 11 times in seven games. No quarterback has more touchdown passes on third down (an obvious blitzing down) than Philip. He has shown an uncanny ability to elude the rush and deliver strikes down the field. Blitzing puts pressure on the quarterback, but the downside is it also opens up the middle of the field where those linebackers and defensive ends were. Who is roaming the middle of the field for the Chargers? An elite tight end who is third in the league in touchdown receptions behind the Broncos Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates. (Thomas 9, Gates 7). Blitzing could very well work against the Broncos if the San Diego tackles can hold them at bay long enough for Rivers to get the ball off.
While the running game has been hit with a wrecking ball, out of the rubble has emerged Branden Oliver. In only three games, Oliver leads all rookie running backs in rushing yards and he’s helped stabilize the running attack. The running game will also open up play action down the field where Rivers has his strongest stable of receivers in years all excelling and, more importantly, all healthy. The Broncos second ranked defense is a huge step up in degree of difficulty. But, remember at the time the Jets were one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL when Oliver was pressed into duty? He ran over, around and through them to the tune of 182 yards from scrimmage (114 rushing, 68 receiving one touchdown).
The Broncos find themselves in a similar position in the running game. The season opening starter, Monte Ball, is out and the running game has fallen into the hands of former San Diego State product Ronnie Hillman. Over the last two weeks, Hillman has been Denver’s feature back and he has played well. Stopping Hillman can turn the vaunted Manning passing attack into a one-dimensional, defendable concept. The only reason I don’t say the same for the Chargers is it has been shown that, no matter how meager the run production is, it is important for the success of the Charger offense that it remains three-dimensional. Mike McCoy will not abandon the running game at any cost.
This game is a great time for the San Diego to show the Broncos, and the rest of the league, that they are a team to be reckoned with in 2014. It is encouraging that it still took a last second field goal to beat them on their worst day. It is also encouraging that the Bolts have found their killer instinct and finished off lesser teams they way playoff caliber teams do. It is worth mentioning that the Chargers two losses are by a combined four points. San Diego has arrived and no one has been able to walk over this perceived soft, finesse football team. They have been able to out-physical teams all season long, most notably against the world champion Seattle Seahawks.
This game looks like a slam dunk for the Broncos to the talking heads all over TV and radio. But they thought the same thing last year. The Chargers are a wounded animal, ravaged by injuries and put into a corner by the biggest dog in the yard. A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. I fully expect the Chargers to shock the world (again) by getting the win in enemy territory. San Diego will assume first place in the AFC West once again by defeating Denver 31-27.
The Greg One
Actually, I really don’t; not even close. I despise everything about that team, including their bandwagon fans. I cower at the thought of even saying Broncos and love in the same sentence. My hatred has grown stronger for the orange donkeys in recent years. Many would say they dislike the Oakland Raiders the most, however my disgust is for the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders have always been one of the most hated teams in the NFL and to most San Diego Charger fans, yet I loathe the Broncos ever since I could remember. I’m a little too young to have witnessed the ‘Holy Roller’ game, but I do remember the meltdown game a few years ago – the Chargers led at halftime 24-0, but ended up losing the game to their putrid rivals. I remember being at the bar, sitting on my stool, red in the face with the aggravation of orange and blue donkey fans screaming at me from across the building saying, “Chargers suck”. It’s only a game they say, but to me it’s pure war.
I’m not sure if it is the attitude most Denver fans have that their team is the best in the NFL, or that in recent years more and more fans jumped on the donkey bandwagon. I just can’t stand any of it or any of them. I can’t stand the insulting Philip Rivers’ memes or how the fans mock the San Diego Chargers. It makes my blood boil. Have you heard recently that the Denver Broncos are the new “America’s Team”? Ever since good old golden boy, Peyton Manning, stepped on the field of Mile High Stadium, fans across the nation have jumped on board. I can’t even count how many fans I have encountered that only cheer for the Broncos because of the fact that fat forehead Manning is now the quarterback. Quite frankly, I just want to push them all off the old squeaky carriage. I thought the Dallas Cowboy fans were bad, but the Bronco fans take the cake.
Does everyone remember watching last year’s Super Bowl game? I do, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Grinning from cheek to cheek, as the Seattle Seahawks demolished and embarrassed the Broncos in front of millions of viewers in the biggest football game of the year. Yet, that satisfaction doesn’t even compare to the two divisional matchups every season between the Chargers. I want the Broncos to lose every game they play and I want their fans to sulk in misery because of it.
Are the Broncos a good team? Sure, but I don’t care. I don’t care that their fans will always reference back to a Super Bowl ring from the late 90’s or that they claim to have the best offense in the league. I have even sworn to not even acknowledge the ugly blue and orange jersey wearing fans found outside their filthy barns. I don’t want anything to do with the Denver Broncos other than seeing a W in the win column after a Thursday Night Football game – or in any other games played between the two. This isn’t one of the better games to see this year, it is the game. This the ultimate duel between two rival teams and their fans. I’m a diehard Charger fan, bleeding blue and gold that will never like the Broncos or their bandwagon fans.
If there’s one silver lining considering it is a short week and the Chargers-Broncos tilt is the main event Thursday, it’s this: I can slam the last nail in the coffin.
However, after taking a few days to decompress and avoid social media, I have a few observations (and questions) before tying a bow on the Oct. 19th game:
1. Philip Rivers cannot help the team win when he isn’t on the field.
2. Coach John Pagano did not attempt to knock Jamaal Charles into next week, nor did he hit Alex Smith in the back with the crown of his helmet. The result: a roughing the passer penalty that extended the series that resulted in a touchdown that gave the Chiefs a lead. Also, Brandon Flowers suffered a concussion and will miss Thursday’s game.
3. Coach Pagano also doesn’t play defensive line which somehow didn’t pressure Alex Smith enough. Yes, Smith was sacked three times for a total loss of 10 yards. However, he wasn’t sacked once in the second half. Check the box score if you don’t believe me. Pagano also didn’t miss tackles on key plays.
It’s a little premature for me to think it’s time to send Coach Pagano to the unemployment office. As was often the cry during my time in the U.S. Navy, the team needed to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Yes, I think the injuries are starting to leave the Chargers exposed. Yet, is it really necessary to start the impending doom scenario with half the season yet to be played?
Fan forums on the San Diego Union-Tribune are already talking mediocrity going forward with predictions of 8-8 or 9-7 at best. Chances are these are same people who are against using tax money to build a new stadium or expand the convention center.
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As the Chargers get ready for Thursday’s game in Denver, the team will have center stage meaning all football eyes will be on them. What team will show up? Based on Wednesday’s injury report (click here), key defensive members will still be out or doubtful. Will the higher altitude have any effect on the team or will Peyton Manning, after breaking Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown passing mark, still be on Cloud Nine?
What will the Chargers need to do to win on Thursday in a hostile environment at the current leaders of the AFC West?
My five keys to victory:
1. Play keep away: It was the Chargers strength through the first five games. Control the ball and keep Manning off the field.
2. Defense must get into Manning’s face: Manning is not known for his mobility (like Rivers). The defensive line must be disruptive enough to force Manning into forcing passes and/or make bad decisions which could lead to more three-and-outs or turnovers.
3. Play smart: Nothing drove more fans to drink than the bad penalties members of the defense took during key moments against the Chiefs. The secondary has to know that contact beyond five years will be called and the quarterback is almost untouchable once the ball leaves his hands. Manning is a record-holding QB, officials will be watching.
4. Capitalize on red zone chances: The Chargers converted one out of two opportunities against the Chiefs. Rivers must drive the offense into more “goal” situations. Nick Novak’s foot will guarantee points, but I think the team needs more than field goals to defeat the Broncos.
5. Double team Thomas: Believe me, I think Julius Thomas has become the modern day Kellen Winslow, but does he merit double teaming? Perhaps or should the Chargers worry about the other Thomas, Demaryius? It’s hard to say. Somehow, if Pagano doesn’t blitz and plays conservative, double teaming may be a necessary risk if the Chargers want to win.
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I read with great interest Steve Fryer’s column in the Orange County Register that concludes that 63% oppose public funds for a new stadium. Two problems: the poll was conducted two months ago (before the regular season started) and two, San Diego County’s population is 3.2 million people (as of 2013). Does a poll of 375 really speak for the majority? Do I need to retake statistics if I missed something?
As always, your questions and comments are welcomed. The staff and I will respond as quickly as possible.
With a tough, ugly loss on Sunday, the San Diego Chargers fell to 1-1 in the division. The contest against the Chiefs, to me, was the worst performance of the season. First off, the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely dominated time of possession; they had the ball twice as long as we did. The Chiefs took it to us on the ground, running the ball for 154 yards on 39 carries, led by Jamaal Charles (22 att/95 yds/1 TD) which was a huge factor in helping them play keep-away from the hand of Philip Rivers and his offense.
While most of the Kansas City drives produced little to nothing on the scoreboard as they kicked three field goals to two touchdowns, it made our offensive possessions that much more precious and important; especially when the Chief defense forced the Chargers to kick two field goals of their own. The Chargers posted a 30% 3rd down conversion rate which showed our inability to keep drives going in order to put points on the board.
Other than Week 3 against Buffalo, the Chargers have not won a game scoring less than 30 points. This is not necessarily a defensive issue, rather it illustrates how potent San Diego’s offense is and allows the defense the luxury of not having the spotlight on them. The defense was front and center on Sunday and showed their inability to get the necessary stop. John Pagano’s unit was exhausted after being on the field for so long.
A 1-1 AFC West record is not bad, but it makes Thursday night against the Denver Broncos that much more important. The Broncos hold a 1-0 record in the division, the Chiefs tie the Chargers at 1-1, and every win the Raiders have this season is as many as they have in the division. The AFC West will be all knotted up in a 1-1 tie if San Diego can prevail on Thursday as the Chiefs cannot improve their division record against the Rams on Sunday. Beating Denver will be no small task.
Peyton Manning and crew will come into this game with a great offensive rhythm as their offense has averaged 38 points since their Week 3 loss in Seattle. During this streak, Manning got the “monkey off his back” by throwing his NFL all-time leading 509th and 510th career touchdowns.
While Denver owns the 14th ranked total offense, they boast a top-10 passing game (7th) with Manning putting up a league leading 118.2 passer rating and 19 touchdowns, second to Tony Romo in completion percentage, and 9th in yards. The run game is what has been weighing this offense down. They rank 29th overall with only 571 yards on the season. Much can be accredited to the Montee Ball project not being as successful as expected this season with only 172 yards and a fumble through four games before being hit with a groin injury that has kept him out since. Ronnie Hillman has been serviceable over the past two weeks posting 174 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries.
The Chargers will have a tough time getting back on track offensively as Denver has allowed the second least amount of yards this season. Specifically, the Broncos will put out the 7th rated passing defense and the 2nd stingiest run defense in football on Thursday night. This will surely test MVP candidate Rivers and rookie sensation Branden Oliver. Our own defense will have to play in prime form. With many injuries to choose from, when you talk about Manning it is significant to point out we will be without our #1 corner in Brandon Flowers and possibly rookie Jason Verrett.
Simply put, this is a huge game if the Chargers have any hopes of capturing the AFC West crown this season. Going 1-2 in the division, and 0-1 against Denver, could give San Diego a tough hill to climb going forward.
It is getting pretty depressing writing about the Charger’s injury report. The team has been banged up from the start of the 2014 season and its backups have been forced into starting roles at an alarming frequency.
Next man up.
Tom Telesco has done a solid job adding depth in his first two years as general manager of the San Diego Chargers. That depth has been tested early and often. Reserves like Branden Oliver have been thrust into key roles and he has been a strong contributor to the Charger running game. No one expected to see Andrew Gachkar play so many snaps on defense as he has been splitting time with another reserve, Kavell Conner.
The defensive secondary has been reshuffled as well. Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett and Shareece Wright have all missed time due to injuries. Eric Weddle is a constant on the back-end, but it is difficult for him to quarterback the defense with so many different combinations of players on his side of the ball.
The San Diego offensive line has been marred by injuries. The center position has seen 4 different starters in the early portion of this year. That is not exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to building cohesion among the hogs upfront. The right guard spot has seen turnover too. Both Johnnie Troutman and rookie Chris Watt have played the position.
It is no secret that the running backs have been hit incredibly hard by the injury bug. Danny Woodhead is out for the year with a broken fibula while Ryan Mathews is still nursing an MCL sprain. The severity of Donald Brown’s concussion is unknown, but due to missing the last three weeks, the concern is mounting that he might not even make it back onto the field in 2014. Heck, Ronnie Brown has even returned to the Chargers to help supplement the mash unit that is the San Diego ball carrier group.
Below is the week 7 injury report for the Bolts.
RB – Donald Brown ( Concussion )
CB – Brandon Flowers ( Concussion )
RB – Ryan Mathews ( Knee )
ILB – Manti Te’o ( Foot )
OLB – Jerry Attaochu ( Hamstring )
CB – Jason Verrett ( Shoulder )
CB – Steve Williams ( Groin )
ILB – Kavell Conner ( Ankle )
RT – DJ Fluker ( Ankle )
OLB – Dwight Freeney ( Knee )
C/G – Rich Ohrnberger ( Back )
Mike McCoy and the coaching staff are going to have to find ways to put the players that are healthy into positions that accentuate their strengths. Having so many backups in can change the gameplan to a degree, but I would expect there to not be too much deviation from what the team does on offense and defense.
The Chargers are heading into Denver tomorrow to take on the Broncos. No one in the Denver organization feels sorry for the Bolts about their long injury list. It is up to San Diego to rise up and overcome this adversity and escape Mile High with a win. It will not be an easy task, but it can be done. The lead in the AFC West is up for grabs and this could be a huge statement game for the Chargers.
Regardless of all of the injuries, I cannot wait for tomorrow’s game.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The Chargers are traveling to Denver after a tough divisional loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Tomorrow’s game will mark San Diego’s third consecutive divisional contest. Thus far the Bolts have split those games with a 1-1 record. The Thursday night tilt against the Broncos will be a very rough game but it is certainly winnable.
Both Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning are surgically taking apart opposing defenses in 2014. Their overall record against each other is 5-5 with both signal callers posting passer ratings of 89.1. The Broncos and Manning have won 5 of the last 6 games against the Chargers with Peyton at the helm. Rivers and company look to change that by leaving Sports Authority field with a much-needed victory.
Here’s a comparison of the 2014 stats of both Philip and Peyton through 7 weeks:
Rivers – 1,961 yards ( 3rd )
Manning – 1,848 yards ( 9th )
Rivers – 17 TDs ( 4th )
Manning – 19 TDs ( Tied for 1st )
*They both have 3 interceptions on the season
Average Passing yards per attempt: ( Stat based on quarterbacks with over 200 passing attempts )
Rivers – 8.5 yards per attempt ( Tied for 1st )
Manning – 8.5 yards per attempt ( Tied for 1st )
Passer Rating: ( Stat based on quarterbacks with over 200 passing attempts )
Rivers – 113.0 ( 3rd )
Manning – 118.2 ( 1st )
Pass Completions 20 yards or longer:
Rivers – 32 ( 2nd )
Manning – 25 ( 6th )
Completion Percentage: ( Stat based on quarterbacks with over 200 passing attempts )
Rivers – 67.4 % ( 4th )
Manning – 68.7 % ( 2nd )
Both quarterbacks are having fantastic seasons and they both look to continue their dominance. Their week 7 matchup could end up being a shootout where the team with the ball last may walk away with a win. Denver’s pass defense is ranked 18th in the league while San Diego boasts the 3rd ranked passing defense. Those stats can be thrown out of the window. They will both be slinging the rock all over the field.
Although the Chargers will want to keep Manning off the field by controlling time of possession and running the ball, make no mistake that Rivers will be called upon to be a major factor.
This is a big game for both teams as the winner will finish Thursday night as the division leader of the AFC West. This battle of gunslingers is definitely worth watching.
For Charger fans, let’s hope that we’ll be witness to another postgame interview with Philip Rivers entertaining us all after a big win at Mile High.
Thanks a lot for reading.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Peyton Manning and the Broncos have already had their bye week and they have played one less game than the Chargers who have their bye in week 10.
This week, Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers find themselves in a relatively new position. The Chargers, after being the favorite for several weeks now, find themselves heavy underdogs going into Denver. Yes, Las Vegas “Wise Guys” have the Broncos favored by eight points in this game between long-time division rivals. Considering that it is a division game and that these two teams have a great history, that is a huge spread! Keeping this in mind, the spin that the coaching staff has to create is completely different than the way they motivated the team going into the last several games.
Let’s take a look at five angles that both head coaches can work while trying to get their teams mentally ready for this Thursday night matchup.
First, we’ll look at Coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos. He enters this game coming off of a big win against the Niners. The entire football world expects his quarterback, Peyton Manning, to carve up the Chargers second string corners like a Ginsu slices through a ripe tomato. Being a heavy favorite is not always a good thing for a coach. It is Fox’s job to build up his opponent to force his team to realize that they need to show up and play hard. He has to build up the Chargers, without demoralizing his team in the process.
- Wounded Animal – One of the popular topics when discussing the Chargers is the mind boggling number of injuries that they have endured. Although GM Tom Telesco has done a fine job filling in for injured players, the gold plating started to come off of the Chargers logo last week against the Chiefs, as the Bolts defense spent almost 40 minutes on the field while their high-powered offense stood helpless on the sidelines. Although the Chargers may have their top two corners out for this game (Flowers and Varrett), Coach Fox must not let the Broncos offense believe they are invincible. Remember, when you back a wounded animal into a corner, they usually come out fighting.
- The Best Must Beat Teams that they are Supposed to Beat – If the Broncos wish to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders, they must not only play well against other contenders, they must dominate teams that they are expected to dominate. Although San Diego may once again be considered a serious contender after their injured players come back, they are not feared right now. The Broncos are expected to win, and win easily. If they allow the Chargers to stick around, or heaven forbid win, the doubters will surface from outside and from within the locker room walls.
- Destroy Hopes – Football is a very emotional game. If a team goes into a game as a big underdog and comes out victorious, or almost victorious, the next time the two teams face each other the underdog will play with a new found confidence that can sometimes be enough to slay the dragon. Fox must find a way to motivate his team to keep the Chargers down and show true killer instinct. If they can do that, the Chargers will enter the next game almost expecting to lose and that is half the battle. The Broncos must score early and often if they want to demoralize the Bolts for next time.
- National TV – Thursday Night Football is the only game in town. The entire football world will be tuning in to watch these two proud franchises get it on. The majority of the nation will be preparing to see just how much damage Peyton Manning can do to the Chargers backups. With the country watching, the pressure is on the Broncos to show what they are really made of. It’s time to shave a little closer, check the tailoring of their jerseys, and brush their teeth a little longer. No mistake will go unnoticed. Blow this game and they will be crucified in the media.
- Rivalry – These two teams have been playing each other since October 16, 1960. On that date, the Los Angeles Chargers took down the Denver Broncos 23-19. Overall, the Broncos lead the series 59-49-1, with their last matchup being the 24-17 Broncos victory in last season’s playoffs. In that playoff game, the Broncos dominated the Chargers for three quarters, only to see Philip Rivers and company reel off 17 fourth quarter points to make a game of it. That shows that there is no quit in this Chargers team and Fox’s Broncos must be up to the challenge or for the second year in a row, Denver will be upset on their home turf and embarrassed on a Thursday night.
For the last four weeks, Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy has been giving speeches like Coach Fox has to give this week. He has been the favorite and has had to remind his team that they are playing NFL teams and that on any giving Sunday…. This week is a different story. He must address their weaknesses and try to turn them into advantages. He must acknowledge Denver’s strengths and show how they can be used against them. While doing all of this, he must find a way to let his band of battered warriors believe that this is a battlefield worth taking, because they have a chance to win. Here are five paths that Coach McCoy can go down to get his team ready.
- Next Man Up – This has been the philosophy of the Chargers all season long. As their players drop like flies, the next man up comes in and takes his place. The, “You’re in the NFL so go do what you get paid to do”, philosophy has certainly helped the Chargers stay confident up to now and is a large part of why they are 5-2 rather than 2-5. Everyone is expected to be a quality starter if they get the call, and everyone better be ready at all times. Yes, the Chargers are likely to face Peyton Manning without their two best corners. So what? They had injuries at the corner position last season when they met on Thursday night and left Denver with a W!
- Underdogs – Sometimes in life, and often in sports, it is nice to be the underdogs. All of the pressure is on the opponent. No one outside of San Diego (and some from within) believes that the Chargers can win this game. Even with a 5-2 record, the massive numbers of missing starters has the world turning their back on the Bolts and expecting a Hall of Fame performance out of Peyton and his crew. This should be quite a relief to the Chargers players and coaching staff. If no one expects you to win, you have nothing to lose! Leave it on the field. Go out there and try to shock the world! You did it last year, you can do it again.
- Denver has the 25th Rated Rushing Offense – As great as Peyton is, the running game of the Denver Broncos is lacking. Thus far, the Broncos are only averaging 95.2 yard rushing per game. Currently, backup Ronnie Hillman is taking the majority of the carries for the injured Montee Ball. This difficulty running the football should allow the Chargers defense to focus on getting to Manning and his passing game. If they can keep the pressure on Manning, they may be able to get him to rush some passes and make mistakes. It has worked in the past.
- Denver’s Defense is 18th Against the Pass – This is good news for Philip Rivers and his talented offense. Since the run game could find tough sledding against the league’s third rated rushing defense, the ball will be in Rivers hands to try and dink, dunk, and drive down the field. The short passing game may need to be utilized in place of the running game on short down situations. The Chargers must run enough to keep Denver’s talented pass rushers honest, but if they are going to win this game it will be with the arm of Philip Rivers. The short passing game will also consume the clock and keep Peyton on the sidelines where he cannot hurt anyone.
- Rivalry – Even though the Chargers have outscored the Broncos (2359 – 2306), Denver still holds the edge in head-to-head matchups by 10 games. Denver also has the edge in recent games, winning five of the last six. The Chargers must fight to show that they are not the whipping boy for any team, especially one that they have played twice a year since 1960. There is no love lost between these two proud franchises and no matter what the odds are, the Bolts must come out fighting and believing that they can win this game.
When it is all said and done, the players must go out there and execute. They cannot rely on the Broncos dropping passes like the Raiders and Chiefs did. They have to man-up and make plays. Once that ball gets kicked off, the coach doesn’t have much more to do as far as motivation goes. It’s time to leave all you have on the field and see which team goes home with their sixth win of the season.
Enjoy the game everyone! Please leave a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP! Go Chargers!!!
PHOTO CREDIT: tireball.com
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Antonio Gates is not done. In fact, he is far from it. Sure, he doesn’t have the speed he once had that allowed him to create separation from cornerbacks. But there are very few linebackers or safeties that can hang with the future Hall of Famer.
Gates is a very solid route runner and he uses his body to position himself while shielding out defenders in an effort to secure passes. He has made a career of embarrassing opposing defenses by using a savvy, crafty approach to getting open. The rapport he has with quarterback Philip Rivers is undeniably strong and the two have been getting it done for a decade. Their connection is strong both on and off the field.
Antonio is currently third in the NFL with seven touchdown receptions this year. He has 363 yards receiving and he his on pace for approximately 829 yards when the 2014 regular season comes to an end. Through seven weeks Gates has two multiple-touchdown games with 3 against Seattle and 2 versus the Jets. If he continues hauling in touchdowns at this rate, he will finish this season with double-digit scoring catches for the first time since 2010.
When looking at his numbers, he is now 10th in NFL history with 94 touchdowns. Needing only six more to reach 100, he would then be only the 9th player in NFL history to reach that plateau. Not bad for an undrafted free agent that was known for playing basketball when he came into the league out of Kent State. He was a damn good basketball player in college, by the way.
Gates is also about to eclipse an impressive mark in Charger history, as well. He needs only 29 yards to pass Lance “Bambi” Alworth as the Chargers all-time leader in receiving yards. Being in a spot to break that record really makes one wish that this upcoming game was at home.
The Bolts always seem to find that undrafted rookie free agent that ends up being a good player. Antonio Gates is a great player, and it is safe to say that he is the best of all of the diamond in the rough findings by San Diego.
It is hard to tell how many more years Gates will play in the NFL. Senior writer/reporter for BoltBlitz.com, Thomas Powell, believes that he’ll retire after the 2014 season. I strongly disagree with this thought, but even if he did, he would walk away from the game of football as one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the NFL. The legacy he would be leaving behind would set the bar almost out of reach for any player that comes in with hopes of replicating his numbers. He is one of the greatest Chargers of all-time.
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Slow down, take a breath and try to look at the big picture. It is not time to panic if you are a San Diego Chargers fan. Should you be ecstatic? Certainly not! Should you feel like last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs was the end of the world? No way. Should you feel that is was a tough loss made even tougher due to having to play Denver on a short week? Of course you should. Personally, what is getting me through this difficult stretch is that this season started off strong and a loss or two will not cause the playoff vultures to start circling our Bolts anytime soon. The sky is not falling.
So what happened? How could the Chargers lose to what all experts believed was an inferior team? That answer is easy. Sometimes football is a war of attrition. Coaches can draw up the greatest game plans in the history of the league, but if they don’t have the players to carry out that plan out, they cannot win. It’s that simple. The Chargers ran out of quality starters and then ran out of gas. Does that mean that the Chargers backups are not quality NFL players? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that the guys on the field last Sunday were not as good as the guys who were on the field for the first six weeks of the season. That being said, let’s remember that the game was in question until the last 30 seconds, so even the backups competed and played hard.
Let’s move on to this week’s matchup with the Denver Broncos and beyond. Yes, the Chargers will be big underdogs versus their long-time division rival. That’s okay! They should be underdogs. The Broncos just finished dismantling the 49ers and the Chargers just lost a heart breaker to the Chiefs. The Broncos are not dealing with a seriously long list of injuries, but the Chargers are. The Broncos are led by Peyton Manning, who is arguably the best regular season quarterback in NFL history. The Chargers are led by Philip Rivers who would start for almost any other team in the NFL other than the Broncos and a few others. I could continue, but the point of this article is not to make you give up hope, but rather to help you understand a few things.
- Underdogs can certainly win football games. It doesn’t matter who the matchup is between, they play the game to find out who will be victorious. The Chargers beat a heavily favored Broncos team last season on a Thursday night in Denver. They could do it again.
- Fortunately, this season the Chargers started out 5-2, rather than some of the poor starts they were growing accustomed to under the previous regime. If the Bolts lose to the Broncos, not all is lost. Their record would be 5-3 going into a week 9 battle against the Dolphins. A game in which they will have a few extra days of rest to heal and prepare.
- Assuming a victory against the Fins (no sure thing), they will go into the bye week with a record no worse than 6-3. If this is the case, they are sitting pretty as far as the playoff picture is concerned. It is generally believed that 10 wins will be the magic number to make the playoffs. If they can enter the bye week 6-3, they will only have to go 4-3 in the remaining games. The bye week should mark the return of several players such as Melvin Ingram, Ryan Mathews, Manti Te’o, etc. For once, the Chargers may have more life in them than their opponents who have enjoyed earlier bye weeks.
You see? All is not lost; even if the Bolts can’t climb the mountain in Colorado Thursday night. Let’s not use terms like, “must win” and just keep the faith. If the Bolts can manage to beat Denver and Miami, they will be looking great going down the home stretch! Keep the faith. Bolt Up! It is our time! On Charge! Charge Harder! Feel free to add any other hoakie sayings that you want to use. Just don’t jump ship. This Chargers team can play and deserves to be believed in, win or lose. Enjoy the game!
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