Per ESPN, Ex-Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running Jamaal Charles has signed with the Denver Broncos. The deal is for one-year/$3.75 million. The Chiefs released the mercurial running back on Feb. 28.
Going into his tenth NFL season, Charles has had five seasons over 1,000 yards rushing and made a name as one of the top triple-threat running backs in the league. To date, Charles has logged 7,260 yards rushing with 43 touchdowns, 411 yards receiving with 20 touchdowns and 1,246 yards on kickoff returns with one touchdown.
With this pending signing, Denver looks to solidify the running game. Charles has been a nightmare for the Los Angeles Chargers since his arrival in Kansas City in 2008. Broncos GM John Elway is looking to create a thunder-and-lightning type of backfield with Charles and starter C.J. Anderson although Charles will presumably be more of a situational back.
The problem with that approach is the damaged knees in that backfield. Going into his fifth NFL season, Anderson is returning from a major knee injury (meniscus) and Charles only managed 12 carries coming off his return from his second ACL injury. Charles has torn the ACL’s in each knee. The first occurred in 2011 and again in 2015. Now 30-years old and lacking the speed he once tore through defenses with at will, how much he has left in the tank for the Broncos remains to be seen. Charles has missed 24 games in the last two seasons with knee issues.
Four years ago, this type of move would strike fear in the hearts of NFL teams and fans. Today, Elways’ love of signing aging, damaged former superstars and desire to create a Peyton Manning-type career resurrection is bordering on comical.
See what two of our writers, Zak Darman and Chris Hoke, have to say about whether or not the 2016 San Diego Chargers will make the playoffs this season.
Zak Darman: NO DEAL! The San Diego Chargers will NOT make the playoffs at years end.
The Chargers made some nice moves in the offseason to boost up their offense by signing wide receiver Travis Benjamin and center Matt Slauson. It is no secret that the offense is much improved, starting with the addition of offensive guru Ken Whisenhunt. The offense was looking very good in Week 1, right before Keenan Allen left that game with a torn ACL, ending his season. The running game looked much improved with a better and more decisive Melvin Gordon. The loss of Danny Woodhead from Sunday’s game against Jacksonville will hurt immensely, though, and they hope the recent signing of Dexter McCluster will help. We will see.
On defense, however, is where the weaknesses still stand out. The Bolts used the No. 3 overall selection on defensive end Joey Bosa, who has not played in a single game this season due to contract negotiations/injury, and brought in nose tackle Brandon Mebane, cornerback Casey Heyward and safety Dwight Lowery. I still don’t like this group because in my opinion they don’t have enough playmakers to take this team to the next level. Manti Te’o is below average and prior to being lost for the season due to injury, there was a question whether he should be starting or not. The safeties are a joke and the pass rush is still bad. Outside of Pro Bowler Jason Verrett, who else is there? It also does not help to have one of the worst defensive coordinators in all of football in John Pagano. Yes, the defense looked great in the first half vs KC but lets not forget that the Chiefs were without Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith was missing some wide open short route throws that he usually doesn’t miss. This unit has been overrated from the get-go and it needs to be addressed. The defense looked better in week 2, but that was against a young and inexperienced Jaguars team. On Sunday, Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton did what they wanted. Verrett wasn’t on his game and the defense had no shot.
First let me start by saying for the sake of this piece I will make a case for Mike McCoy even if my previous articles and opinions have stated otherwise. Mike McCoy has shown flashes of being a Coach who can lead this team. All of the losses, huge injuries, off the field drama with Eric Weddle and now Joey Bosa, has caused major distractions which is never a good recipe in the locker room. In this case for Mike McCoy winning fixes everything. Even through three major season-ending injuries to key players, this team is built to win and get deep into the playoffs. Here’s how:
As Zak had pointed out above, the improvement of this offense is the running game. Yes it is odd to say this, due to the horrible run game the Chargers have had in a long time, a running game is very much back in San Diego; maligned since the departure of Ken Whisenhunt and Ryan Mathews. It’s no coincidence that since his return to America’s finest city, the run game has been rejuvenated. Gordon, who had zero touchdowns last year, has already compiled four scores along with his first career 100 yard rushing game against the Jags. Follow that up with a passing attack, without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead whom are both lost for the season, still has the weapons to be very dangerous. With the old reliable Antonio Gates on the sidelines, there is not much room for panic with the emergence of second round pick Hunter Henry. Even with the fumbled tragedy that ended any last ditched efforts for a win last week against the Colts, Hunter had a pretty solid game; breaking open for huge yards. Continuity between him and Rivers will only begin to grow more with each big play Hunter makes. The future is still bright for these Bolts offensively.
After being released from the Chargers after the 2012 season, former Head Coach Norv Turner was asked for a quote regarding the new incoming coaching staff. “They need to have a lot of patience with them.”
“Them” referencing all Charger fans.
Maybe we need to really forget about 2013 as maybe the Chargers caught lightning in a bottle with a group of talent that really wasn’t that good, at least defensively. Moving on to this year, it’s been four years and four drafts since Tom Telesco and company took over. Some naysayers have claimed that he has missed on players, but at the same time he has found some gems, such as Jason Verrett. There are others like Craig Mager and DJ Fluker where the verdict is still to be determined however in my opinion they are good additions to this team.
I will say that the defensive talent on this team, is what Pagano has been waiting for. We all have seen what Hayward has done thus far and of course what the Pro Bowler Verrett can do, but the key addition, in my opinion, is the addition to Brandon Mebane – whose presence alone has shifted protection schemes. That ability, to force opposition to change schemes, is not listed in the box score yet it creates room for the linebackers, such as new defensive captain Melvin Ingram, to reap the rewards.
The first round pick Joey Bosa has yet to take the field – signs pointing to week 5 or 6. The Chargers seem fine to just ease him in slowly rather to not risk further injury. Even with the loss of Manti Teo, Jatavis Brown stepped in and showed that he can be an instant playmaker. When Bosa does finally step in and is at game level, this defense will be headed to the next level. We already see what happens when Mebane is on the field and when you add in the beast Corey Liuget and Bosa – the three-headed monster will lead this team to playoffs and hopefully back to the Super Bowl.
In closing, if McCoy can remain aggressive, this team can and will make the playoffs. If his attitude is as assertive as I saw it to be in 2013, it will resonate throughout the whole locker room. As long as we do not continue to lose key players every week, this team has the talent to beat any team on any given Sunday. The defense could easily be ranked in the top five, sans injuries of course, and as we have seen in the past, defense wins championships. Toss in a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a running back who is so raw and talented, and a receiving core who has already manifested themselves as reliable, the San Diego Chargers will make it deep into the playoffs. Perhaps we will hear this again.
Let us know your opinion on whether or not the Chargers, as it stands, will make the playoffs this season.
Thanks for reading
The staff at BoltBlitz.com gives their picks and analysis of Sunday’s game.
Zak Darman: KC is without Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles, arguably the two best players on the KC roster. Tamba Hali is banged up and Alex Smith is still Alex Smith. BUT, Mike McCoy and John Pagano are still here. The Bolts are without their 3rd overall pick and we still don’t know if they can stop the run yet. The defense should be better and the offense should be immensely better with the additions of Travis Benjamin and Offensive Coordinator Ken Wisenhunt. My fear is the Chargers start out sloppy and slow, as we normally see, and dig themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. It will be closer than many think, but the Chiefs are still deeper than the Chargers and have better talent at most of the skill positions. 24-20 Chiefs
Travis Blake: Contrary to popular opinion, this game is not a low scoring defensive battle many pundits were predicting. Chargers get down early 7-0 but rally back midway through the second quarter and never trail again. Melvin Gordon runs for 99 yards and his first regular season rushing touchdown on a draw play from just outside the red zone. A comeback hopeful drive late in the 4th quarter stalls for the Chiefs as Melvin Ingram gets the strip sack to end the game! Boom! #boltpredictions. Bolts 31, Chiefs 27.
Corey Decker: The Chargers are going into one of the loudest stadiums in the entire national football league. Which means they will be primed and ready to upset the home team. Almost every touchdown in the first three preseason games was scored by the first string, which is a very good sign that the Chargers will score at least one touchdown in the first quarter. The bolts will trail 14-7 going into half time, but will score one touchdown in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters. The Chiefs will kick a field goal with less than a minute remaining and then fail on an onside kick attempt. This game will be close like most division games are. There are a lot of guys that didn’t see much action last season playing which means they are hungry. Chargers 21-17
Cheryl White: Melvin Gordon scores his and the teams first touchdown; the team will be itching to get some work in. KC’s defense will be off kilter a bit w/o Houston and Matt Slauson will show the O-line how to play with NFC North nastiness. Add in touchdowns by Gates and Slayer with good field position for a change courtesy of Benjamin or whomever runs it back. 24-21 Bolts
Chris Hoke: Chargers overcome slouchy first half and squeeze past the Chiefs led by a stingy second half defense and the arm of Rivers. Josh Lambo hits a field goal in OT as the Chargers leave KC victorious. 24-21 bolts
Mike Pisciotta Kansas City’s front 7, even with the absence of Justin Houston will stuff Melvin Gordon and force the offense to become one dimensional. With Joey Bosa out, the Chief’s offense will take advantage with Jamaal Charles and Charcandric West and run all over the Chargers defense. KC 24-17 winners
Will McCafferty: If a healthy Bolt squad can’t beat a banged up KC team, they are in real trouble. 27-24 Bolts
Greg Williams: D will stuff what is left of Chiefs running game. No Justin Houston means they can double Hali without consequence. Chargers will lead wire to wire and game manager Smith will throw two picks trying to play catch-up. Rivers lights up Chiefs secondary for 325 yards and 4 touchdowns. (Two to Gates, who roasts Eric Berry on the regular). 31-13 bolts win
Dave “Booga” Peters: Gordon does just enough, totaling 111 total yards and two touchdowns. Defense forces three turnovers. Joey Bosa was missed in generating pressure, but the front-seven pressures KC enough to allow the secondary to snag two Alex Smith interceptions. Bolts allow QB Smith to rush for 50 yards while Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West chew up 160 yards on the ground, but that isn’t enough for KC. Chargers win 23-20
Here is my take on three things the Chargers must do in order to walk out of KC 1-0
Ahh yes. Week one is upon us at last. Lets get into it
1.) Control the rock, control the clock
If it’s one thing the Chargers learned with Whiz in 2013, it’s that he likes to control the clock and keep his offense on the field. Melvin Gordon is going to have to be a huge part of this game plan, even if he looked lost last season. Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead will also have to be used on short passes because, even though he looks limited, Tamba Hali is still a top pass rusher and Dee Ford has given us fits since KC drafted him.
2.) Stop the run
Kansas City looks like they will be without star running back Jamaal Charles this week, which is a plus. But the guy who will replace him, Spencer Ware, is no slouch either. Last season in the two games he played and started vs the Chargers, he had 19 total carries for 148 yards (7.7 average) with two touchdowns. That is unacceptable on every level and defensive coordinator, John Pagano, is going to have to game plan to stop him. Addition of Brandon Mebane will help. If only Bosa was playing….
The bolts are going to need Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o to step up and help with the run game as well.
3.) Tune out the crowd noise
“Home field advantage” is more mental part of the sport than it is result. However, it is still something that needs to be addressed because in a division game on the road, every little thing matters. I am not one who believes that “home crowd” has a big effect. It is highly overblown and has no effect on a players skill set and a little effect on the game result. Get the mental aspect of it right and you will most of the time be okay. Now, the other part of “Home field advantage” is the field of play and comfort. That is more a problem than the crowd noise. But knowing the Chargers play in KC once a season, that should also be little problem as they already know what to expect.
If the Chargers do all three of these things, they should come out with a victory. I, for one am excited and ready to see how this team does on both sides of the ball. Do you agree or disagree with my keys? What else do you think is a key to winning? Let me know in the comments below!
Zak Darman (@WilMyersGOAT)
After suffering an embarrassing loss last week at home to Denver, the San Diego Chargers will have the daunting task of defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are red-hot, riding a six-game winning streak and pushing for a playoff spot. San Diego is playing for pride in their last four games as their season has been derailed by a litany of injuries to key players on offense and defense.
Kansas City was also expected to fall into the AFC West cellar after losing their perennial Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles for the season eight weeks ago. Instead, they rallied around each other and have recovered from a 1-5 record to put themselves in playoff contention. Keying their turnaround has been an improved defense led by bookend defensive ends Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Add in an emotional boost from safety Eric Berry (after missing a year and successfully beating Cancer) and you have a defense that has forced multiple turnovers a team record seven weeks in a row.
San Diego has a tall mountain to climb but we all know the old adage about any given Sunday. Last week, the lowly Philadelphia Eagles beat the almighty New England Patriots. Anything can and will happen on an NFL Sunday. The Bolts stand the same punchers chance of winning that the Eagles did. How could if happen?
When the Chiefs have the ball
Kansas City handed the Chargers their worst home loss of the season, 33-3 in week 11. Unknown running back Spencer Ware lit up the Chargers defense for 96 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 52-yard run. Running backs Ware and Charcandrick West will look to ground out a victory as they have been doing during their current winning streak.
The passing game has also found life in Kansas City, led by offseason acquisition Jeremy Maclin. Maclin leads the receiving corps with 66 catches for 817 yards and five touchdowns. A close second is tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce has 56 catches for 731 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Alex Smith is known as a game manager but a better adjective would be consistent. Smith doesn’t have gaudy numbers but he also does not turn the ball over. To date, Smith is 246-376 for 2843 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Smith is also dangerous with his legs. While is isn’t a speed demon, he is third on the team in rushing with 60 carries for 326 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he has run for 19 first downs on the season.
San Diego will have to find a way to generate a pass rush which has been easier said than done this season. For as great as their defensive line has been, the same can’t be said for their offensive line. KC’s offensive line has given up 38 sacks. The Chargers are not averaging two sacks a game as they have 22 sacks on the season. Liuget was third on the team with three sacks. Melvin Ingram (5 sacks) and Jeremiah Attaochu (4.5 sacks) lead the team rushing the passer and will be leaned on to continue to do so. The defense will also have to do a better job bottling the KC ground attack. In the last game the Chiefs had three ground touchdowns and one pick-6 by Justin Houston.
When the Chargers have the ball
Quarterback Philip Rivers is losing targets seemingly every week. Three wide receivers are gone with Keenan Allen, Dontrelle Inman and Stevie Johnson out. Malcolm Floyd is playing through a shoulder injury. During the week, the Chargers enlisted the services of former Charger wideout Vincent Brown. Brown will start in a thin receiving lineup currently consisting of Floyd, Javontee Herndon and Tyrell Williams. The load of a team and a city has rested heavily on the shoulders of Rivers. Somehow, Rivers is third in the league in passing with 3713 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Rivers is also playing through a foot injury and illness he contracted during the past week.
Tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are the most consistent options Rivers has at this point. The two have combined for 70 receptions for 784 yards and eight touchdowns. Using the underutilized option of playing the two together would open running lanes for Gordon and Danny Woodhead and allow the Chargers to move the ball down the field. In their first encounter, Rivers only managed to 178 yards on 30 attempts without a touchdown.
Rivers has had no help in the running game. Melvin Gordon has not been able to get going and carries the ignominious label of running back with the most carries without a touchdown. Gordon has 565 yards on 155 carries. The Chargers offensive line has had more combinations than an Rubik’s Cube and Rivers has paid for it. The line has given up 30 sacks.
Chargers O-line vs. Kansas City pass rush. Rivers was harassed throughout the first encounter by the stout Kansas City defensive front. Rivers was sacked three times, and gave up the pick six to Houston. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe generates significant pass rush up the middle. If the Bolts offensive line can keep those three in check, Rivers will have time do dissect the Chiefs’ formidable secondary led by Berry and rookie of the year candidate CB Marcus Peters. Peters has 50 tackles, 18 passes defensed, five interceptions, one forced fumble and one touchdown on the season.
This game does not look like winnable on the surface. San Diego has lost seven of their last eight games. Three of their last four games are against the AFC West where they are 0-3 to date. Will the Chiefs be looking past the Chargers? Having Rivers under center always gives the Bolts a chance to win. The Chargers know what to expect now that they have game tape on West and Ware. Rivers had his worst game of the season against the Chiefs. Look for the QB to bounce back and put yardage and touchdowns against the Chiefs. While I won’t go so far as to say the Bolts will win, they will give Kansas City a better battle than the 33-3 beatdown the Chargers suffered at home three weeks ago.
The Greg One
If you need to be motivated for this game, you may want to check your pulse! The game between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs is of huge importance for both teams. If the Chargers win, they are in the post-season. If they Chiefs win, they have a chance, however so slight, to grab the last wild card spot as well. It is week 17 and this is no time to hold anything back.
With that in mind, the coaches have to walk the fine line between getting their team too fired up, which would cause reckless play, and too loose, which could cause lazy mistakes. Let’s take a look at how Coach McCoy (Chargers) and Coach Reid (Chiefs) can spin what they know in a way that will inspire just the right amount of emotion and confidence. Remember, these are my words, not actual quotes. Please comment below and let me know how you would motivate your players in this situation.
Kansas City Chiefs: Coach Andy Reid
- Win and We Have a Chance: “Let’s face it men, we need some help to make the playoffs. After we beat the Chargers, we still need the Browns and the Jags to win in order to make the playoffs. Yes, that sounds like a longshot. That’s okay! Longshots come in all the time! Strange things happen in sports. It will not upset me to win this game and not make the playoffs. What would really eat at me would be to lose this game and then watch the Jags and the Browns win their games. Then we would have to live with the fact that we had the post-season in our hands and we let it slip through our fingers. Can you live with that?”
- Next Man Up: “We are all very well aware that we lost Alex (Smith). Well boo hoo for us! What are we going to do? Cry? Not me. I’m going to help get Chase (Daniel) prepared to play a football game. Chase can play! We almost beat these guys in San Diego last season with Chase at the helm and our second team in the game! He is a quality professional quarterback. We are fine.”
- Meet Their Intensity: “The Chargers are going to come out on fire! If they beat us, they are in. They know that and we know that. If we go out flat, they will run away with the game. We need to go out there like a team that believes that they will be playing next week. We need to show them early that all their excitement is for naught. That being said, they showed last week that they have the ability and the heart to come from behind, so if we get them down, we need to step on their throats and keep them down. Hold nothing back. We have all offseason to rest.”
- Ball Control: “Last time we played these guys we held the ball on offense for 39 minutes! That gave Philip Rivers and their offense 21 minutes with the ball. It is hard for a team to score points when they do not have the football! The Chargers are decent against the pass, but they have been getting torched on the ground. That plays right into our hands. We need to run it down their throats and methodically move down the field. If we get them worried enough about the run, it will open things up for the passing game. I foresee a lot of long drives for our offense. The keys will be to not turn over the ball, move the chains, and do not settling for field goals! If we can do that, we will win this game.”
- Home Field Advantage: “No one likes coming into Arrowhead Stadium to play. We have one of the loudest crowds in the history of the NFL. That is an advantage that we need to capitalize on. If we let them get out in front early, that will quiet our crowd and there goes our advantage. Again, I must emphasize the importance of starting the game with a bang. Score early and often. The crowd will feed off of our momentum and life will be very difficult for the boys in blue.”
San Diego Chargers: Coach Mike McCoy
- Inspiring Comeback: “Men, we showed a lot of heart last week in San Francisco. To come back from 21 down on two occasions against a very good Niners defense is not something just any team can do. Did we do that for nothing? Because if we lose this week, that victory was wasted. Keep believing, men. If you show the same heart this week that you showed in the second half of last week’s game, we will be on to the tournament! I’ll be honest with you, as great as that victory was I would be much happier with a nice comfortable early lead that we stretch throughout the game.”
- Win and We’re In: “I doubt I need to explain this to you, but do you all completely understand our situation? We are one game away from competing in the tournament! If and when we beat the Chiefs, we are on to the post-season. We are in control of our own destiny. Are you going to let the Chiefs take away what is ours? Are you going to waltz into Arrowhead Stadium and lay an egg and have to spend the entire offseason wondering “what if?” Not me! I’m not going down without a fight! In fact, I have no intension of going down to defeat! This is our destiny, not theirs. Let’s go on and see what the football gods have in store for the San Diego Chargers.”
- Offense: “We need to control the ball much better than we did in our last meeting with the Chiefs. We need holes for our running backs. Running backs, we may need you to break a tackle, fight for extra yards, or juke someone out of their jocks! I don’t want any excuses! We need to be able to run the ball and protect our quarterback! You know that Philip is banged up. You also know that he is tough as nails, but he is also human. Keep him clean. Receivers, you can help with that too. Get open ASAP! They have a good pass defense. Who cares? We will get open and we will move the football. No excuses!“
- Defense: “WE MUS STOP THE RUN! If we cannot stop Charles and their other backs, we cannot win this game. The Chiefs offense runs through Jamaal Charles! Hit him every play! Wrap up on all tackles! Team tackle! Make Chase Daniel beat us….or at least try to beat us.”
- Professional Football Players: “We are all aware that Alex Smith is out for this game. We are also aware that Charles and Bowe are on the injury report as questionable. I have an opinion about this situation. My opinion is…..I don’t care! We will be facing professional football players. If you recall, their second team, led by the same QB we will face tomorrow, took us to overtime last year in week 17. We took them lightly last season. We should know better this season. I say we play as if we are going against the best team in the league and we have to play with great intensity and we must shut up that crowd early and break their spirit. We have been going with the next man up philosophy all season. They are using it now. We know it works for us. It doesn’t have to work for them. Get them down and keep them down and it’s off to the playoffs.”
There you have it! That is how I would address both teams before this giant of a game. I’d love to hear your opinion and your ideas how to do the same. Thanks for the read and Go Chargers!
(Thanks to KCChiefs.com and NFLRush.com for the pics)
There is nothing like going into week 17 knowing that if you win, you’re in the playoffs. That is exactly what the Chargers are facing on Sunday as they travel to Arrowhead stadium to take on the division rival Chiefs.
It was just announced today that Alex Smith has a lacerated spleen and Chase Daniel will start at quarterback for Kansas City.
Despite the difference in venue, this year’s situation is very similar to last year’s when the Bolts played the Chiefs in week 17 with Daniel at the helm. KC was already a lock for the playoffs in 2013, while the Chargers, with a little help and a win, would secure a trip to the postseason.
This season San Diego wins and they immediately punch their ticket to the playoffs. With the defense stepping up as of late — 11th overall in the NFL — they now have the task of slowing down running back Jamaal Charles. His speed and overall ability could pose problems if he is allowed to get going. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
The Chief defense features one of the best pass rushing duos in the league in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. They have combined for 24 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. Defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey have 9 sacks between the two of them. The Charger offensive line must find a way to keep Philip Rivers upright. Due to the lack of a running game, expect Rivers to be dropping back quite often.
The 2014 season has been all over the place. We have all seen a 5-game winning streak, a 3-game losing streak, a 3-game winning streak followed more recently by a 2-game losing streak. With a win over Kansas City, they would end the regular season on a 2-game winning streak after last week’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
It has been an emotional roller coaster as a Chargers fan. The injuries have piled up and reserve players have been called upon at numerous positions. Despite the losing streaks and missing players, San Diego can make it the second consecutive year in a row that Mike McCoy has led them to the postseason.
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
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.
We all know the playoff scenario. On Sunday the Chargers need the Ravens and Dolphins to lose even to have a chance at getting into the playoffs. The Ravens plays at Cincinnati and the Dolphins host the Jets. It’s a possibility the cards can fall into place and both games go the Chargers way. That really isn’t the important thing.
The Chargers must beat Kansas City at home on Sunday.
We all want to see the Chargers in the playoffs but the Chargers don’t need to worry about things that aren’t in their control. Even if one of the above mentioned teams wins, it is no excuse for the Chargers to play with anything less than their absolute best. By the time the Chargers come out of the tunnel at Quaalcomm stadium, they will know if they are playing for a spot in the playoffs or not. If so great. If not, doesn’t matter. The win is what matters.
There are rumors that it is common for Andy Reid to rest starters when he knows his team is set to make the playoffs. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe won’t be playing due to a concussion. Stud pass rusher Tamba Hali will not play due to injuries. Jamaal Charles playing time may be restricted. This game has no bearing on the Chiefs playoff seeding. They are in and they are playing on wild card weekend.
Whether they’re playing the Chiefs reserves or the starters, the Chargers winning will signal a successful beginning of the Telesco/McCoy era. The Chargers are guaranteed at least a .500 record. They were 7-9 last season and they are 8-7 now. A win gives them a winning season and means they closed the season on a 4-game winning streak. The Chargers need that momentum going into the offseason.
We have witnessed a return of Pro Bowl Philip Rivers. Rivers is the fourth highest ranked quarterback in the league and is in the top five in almost every passing category there is. The new offense implemented by McCoy and conducted by OC Ken Whisenhunt has kept Rivers standing upright and completing passes all over the field, putting up sensational numbers.
Ryan Mathews has played in every game this season, a first for him in his career. As a result, he has posted a career high in yards with 1,111 yards and 6 touchdowns. Mathews has played very well the last half of the season. Next season is Mathews’ last season before his rookie contract expires. A repeat of this season’s effort could earn him a veteran contract. The one-two combination of Mathews and Woodhead has been a success and will be lethal if Mathews can show he is durable enough to be counted on week in and week out.
The offensive line has turned into a cohesive unit and with one week left Rivers has been sacked almost 20 fewer times than he was last season. DJ Fluker has been every bit worth his draft position to the point where his exclusion from the Pro Bowl should be considered a snub. King Dunlap has played admirably. Clary at guard has been a great decision. The entire line is playing their best when it counts, at the end of the season. This line will only get better.
All the new names on defense from rookies Mantei Teo, Jahleel Addae and Tourek Williams to guys getting starters minutes like Thomas Keiser and Andrew Gachkar have thrived. They will make great second unit once the injured stars like Dwight Freeney, Larry English, Melvin Ingram and rookie draft pick Steve Williams return at full strength next season.
A 9-7 record highlighted by a four game end of season win streak is the objective. That’s a wave of momentum that can sway free agents to San Diego, highlights areas to enhance in the draft and sends the team into the offseason on a high. That momentum then flows into offseason workouts, minicamps, training camp and preseason. Playoffs or not, getting the win is the most important thing the Chargers can do for themselves.
The Greg One