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.
The Chargers face a run of three straight divisional opponents in weeks 6 through 8. They begin in Oakland, return home to face Kansas City and then fly out to Denver to take on the Broncos. This might be the most important stretch of games during the 2014 season.
Having three games against division foes can make or break a season regardless of a current record of 4-1. When it comes down to tie-breakers late in the season toward a push for a playoff spot, the record against the division is incredibly important. The AFC West is one of the better divisions in all of the NFL. When you face teams like Denver and Kansas City, a split with both teams is welcomed in the scheme of things. The Broncos are a formidable opponent and Arrowhead is a very tough place to go to and leave with a win.
And then there’s the week 6 rival in the form of the Oakland Raiders.
I have no problem admitting that the Raider game causes some concern for me. A recently fired head coach replaced by an interim one and they are coming off of their bye. The fact that they are winless provides an even bigger threat, in my opinion. They are looking at each game as though it is their Super bowl. They will, without a doubt, be fighting tooth and nail to obtain their first win of the 2014 campaign.
The Raiders look to have rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, returning from injury and he’ll eventually be a solid signal caller in the NFL. The running game in Oakland has been abysmal. Their offense is ranked 32nd overall and the San Diego defense must find a way to keep them at that ranking. James Jones is a threat at wideout and Denarius Moore can fly. The defensive backfield for the Bolts will have to shut them down to avoid giving up explosive plays.
Although the Raider offense has been inept to this point, their defensive backs have been impressive. Oakland boasts the 4th rated pass defense in the league. The same can’t be said about their run defense. Their defensive unit is currently ranked 31st at stopping the run. Branden Oliver might be set up to top his career day that he had versus the New York Jets.
Every division game is a battle. The Bolts will need to take this game very seriously and they should fly home from Oakland with the very much-needed divisional win.
In week 7 the Bolts come home to face the Chiefs. Alex Smith is known around the league for being a game manager, but he has a few weapons at his disposal that would suggest otherwise. The running game in KC is stout; featuring running back stud Jamaal Charles and newcomer Knile Davis. Defending the run against Kansas City will be paramount in achieving a home win. The defense is highlighted by players like Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe. Houston and Hali form one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Poe is a serious force to be reckoned with in the middle of the Chief defensive line. Having a safety that is as athletic as Eric Berry doesn’t hurt their chances. That being said, Antonio Gate has owned Berry and made him look silly in coverage on multiple occasions.
And then there is the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. Regardless of how tough the game against the Seahawks was in week 2, this is the true test for the team. With San Diego having faced two straight divisional opponents in a row, Denver is ready to do what they can to build on the fact that they beat San Diego two out of three times last season. Manning has weapons all over the offense including Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. Yikes. Those are a “host” of players that the San Diego defense will be held accountable for limiting in their production. ( That “host” portion was for you, Dad. )
The Bronco defense added pieces such as DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward in the offseason during free agency. Minus Ware, the other two players have not contributed as expected. But it is safe to say that Denver upgraded those positions due to those acquisitions.
Peyton is stacked when it comes to options in the receiving game. Lord knows he still has some lead left in that cannon. But his ability to throw deep down the field is no longer like it used to be. John Pagano’s gameplan must be aggressive and he must find a way to rattle Manning and make him nervous.
Now that I’ve run my mouth about the next three games, I’ll leave it to you to provide you thoughts via voting and the comment section. The poll below gives you and opportunity to put in your two cents regarding the 3-game divisional foe stretch the Chargers are about to embark on.
Thanks again for reading and supporting BoltBlitz.com. The readers are why my staff works so hard to give you the best Charger content available. We are always open to your thoughts and suggestions.
There are always question marks surrounding all 32 NFL teams going into the regular season. I will have a piece coming out today or tomorrow regarding 20 questions regarding the 2014 San Diego Chargers.
Due to the importance of the question in the title, I felt it necessary to take this question to the next level and expound upon the subject at hand. Sure, San Diego has improved in multiple areas. The lack of depth going into 2013 has evolved into a situation where the 2014 Bolts will have some difficult decisions to make concerning the cuts of some players that fans will be surprised to hear their names on the waiver wire.
As mentioned on both this website and BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9, having too much talent is a good problem to have. The level of competition throughout the offseason and preseason will turn to career-saving plays from the fringe players that are currently on the gigantic 90-man roster. There is very little room for error when looking at the players that are on the cusp of either winning a roster spot, or looking for a new residence come the final cuts on August 30th at 4:00 pm est.
Here is where I get back to the topic on hand and focus on the losers of last year’s Super bowl, the Denver Broncos. Let me make something clear, the offense in Denver last year not only followed the trend of being a part of confirming that today’s NFL is a pass-driven league, they blew records out of the water with ease.
That sound you just heard was Peyton Manning throwing for more yards and another touchdown.
The Bronco offense may have lost Eric Decker, but he was replaced with former Steeler wideout Emmanuel Sanders. More explosion, and, possibly, an even bigger threat for Manning and the Denver offense could have been found with the addition of Sanders.
I think what deserves more attention is what the Broncos did defensively. After losing players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Wesley Woodyard, Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers and long-time defensive back Champ Bailey, the Denver defense was in need of an overhaul. And they did just that.
Phillips led the Broncos in sacks last year and was replaced by the free agent signing of DeMarcus Ware. Is it truly an upgrade? Maybe? Be careful and think in terms of future production and do not allow yourself to be clouded by numbers that may not be replicated by either player moving forward. I would tend to agree with those of you that give the slight edge to Ware. But, the Broncos are not getting the guy that was once one of the best defensive players in the league.
The loss of Rodgers-Cromartie could have been a significant one. Well, except that, in my opinion, they upgraded the spot by signing Aquib Talib. Despite off-the-field issues, he is a force to be reckoned with as a cornerback. He is incredibly physical and he has the capability of shutting down the opposing team’s number one receiving option each and every week. They certainly improved there despite the athleticism that Rodgers-Cromartie flashed at times during his career.
Another addition to the Denver secondary was T.J. Ward. He is a bit of a liability in coverage but he will not hesitate to take an opposing player’s head off with a vicious, well-timed hit. He might be able to fill the void as the defensive enforcer on the back-end of the Bronco secondary.
When backtracking to the offensive side of the ball, Denver, in addition to Decker, also lost Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadles. The loss of Moreno may not amount to much due to a running back tandem of Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. The offensive line returning Ryan Clady to the fold is one of the only reasons I have any fear regarding the Denver running game. Ball and Hillman are not serious threats without pristine blocking, in my opinion. Sorry, San Diego State fans ( regarding my lack of faith in Hillman being a factor.)
When looking at what the Broncos have done this offseason, what are your thoughts regarding the San Diego’s ability to match Denver on paper? For all Charger fans out there, you all know what the Bolts have done. Exciting additions of Brandon Flowers and Donald Brown added more depth and starter quality where it was needed. The most underrated signing of the Charger offseason might have been that of Kavell Conner. He will make an impact defensively in passing situations, at times, but mostly his presence will be felt as insurance behind both Donald Butler and Manti Te’o.
Another free agency add that has both the media and fans clamoring is that of David Johnson. The team has lined Johnson up all over the place including fullback, tight end and even in the slot. For a man his size, he can really move. He is not going to set any 40-yard dash records, but he will surprise defenders if they are only focused on his size. Yes, he’s a big boy.
Speaking of insurance, the Donald Brown signing proves that Tom Telesco realized during the playoff loss to the Broncos that there must be more quality depth in the Charger backfield. Running Danny Woodhead between the tackles can only get you so far. That’s not to say that he can’t be effective at times doing just that. But relying on that is not conducive to long-term success. After Ryan Mathews put up one of the most physical running years in recent Charger history, he was banged up near the end of the 2013 season. He played through it for the most part which is highly admirable. But, he was forced to leave the playoff game in Denver due to a season’s long ration of wear and tear.
In comes Donald Brown. Brown has been seen as a guy that could be considered to be a cross between Mathews and Woodhead. His feet are surprisingly quick when watching him in person. He is effective as a pass-blocker when asked to do so. He also has reliable hands as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He averaged over 5 yards per carry last year during his final campaign with Indianapolis. The fans in America’s Finest city, and all Charger fans everywhere, should be very pleased with the pickup of Brown.
The fact that Brandon Flowers has the Charger fans incredibly excited for the 2014 season, and this is now the second year of the reign in San Diego of Telesco and Mike McCoy, the sky may be the limit for the 2014 Chargers. When you add in the aforementioned moves above, there seem to be a lot of reasons to be excited in San Diego.
But, I’ll leave the answer of this question to you. Let’s go back to the title. Have the Chargers improved enough to keep up with Denver?
You all know the drill. There is a poll below. Place your vote and leave your justification for why you voted the way you did in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
I am really looking forward to reading what the fans have to say regarding this topic. It is going to be interesting, I’m sure of that.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting. I look forward to your comments below.