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.