First, congratulations are in order for the Denver Broncos, on winning another AFC West division title. That marks the fourth-straight year they have managed the feat. The whole team deserves credit for this; it is not an easy task to accomplish. Even the coaches get some credit, despite their questionable play-calling and coaching at times, which just happened to surface against the Chargers.
On top of the play-calling and coaching, the Broncos offense faced struggles with players getting banged up and leaving the game, even if it was for a brief amount of time. The game took a toll on the team, physically and mentally. The woes of the Broncos getting into the endzone are still existent, evidenced by the fact they had to kick five field goals. This is where play-calling comes into question.
The Broncos did not play their best game. There were a lot of issues in moving the ball effectively. The Chargers lined up and shut down the run game, for the most part, but the passing game was solid. The predictability of the play-calls didn’t help the offense out much either. Despite the issues, the Broncos made the splash plays needed in order to pull out the victory.
With that said, it is time for the player grades. Each player starts with a C grade. A positive impact on a play raises their grade, while a negative impact on a play lowers it.
Snaps: 62. Stats: 14-of-20 for 233 yards and 1 touchdown.
Manning played a really good game. He did make a couple of questionable decisions on where to go with the ball, but they were a lot less frequent than they were the past couple weeks. His arm looked really good, throwing only one "off" pass but it was still completed. He was quick with his reads and moved the ball, until the redzone. Oh, and he was reportedly playing this game with the flu. His grade: B.
Snaps: 4. Stats: 0-of-2 with 1 pass dropped.
Osweiler gets hate from Broncos fans no matter what he does on the field, his fault or not. He attempted two passes, then handed the ball off and took a knee for his four snaps. The two passes were not bad. The first was a dropped pass by a tight end, which is not Osweiler’s fault. On the second one, the offensive line fell apart and did not give him time to go through his reads. He is not Peyton Manning and won’t go through his reads in a second. Although, if the offensive line gave him just a split second more, it probably would have been a completely different play. His grade: C.
Snaps: 58. Stats: 29 rushes for 85 yards,with 2.9 yards per carry, forced 7 missed tackles. Targeted 2 times, catching 2 passes for 11 yards.
Anderson played a solid game, but looked like he was hobbled by an injury that kept him limited in practice during the week. He was not as explosive as he has been. The offensive line did not help either, as their run blocking was poor. He did flash the explosion, but not on a consistent basis. His grade: C-.
Snaps: 8. Stats: 4 rushes for 14 yards, with 3.5 yards per carry, forced 2 missed tackles.
Thompson only saw a handful of snaps, and some of them were as a fullback. He did well when called upon. He picked up 6 yards on two runs and then 8 on another. Where he really stood out was as a blocker. He has become more of the fullback on the team as of late, and it’s because of his blocking. He does a really good job at executing his assignment. His grade: B.
Snaps: 2. Stats: 2 rushes for 16 yards, with 8.0 yards per carry.
Stewart’s two snaps came with him running the ball. The first run went for 16 yards, where he showed good vision and agility through the hole to avoid tacklers. The second run went for nothing, but he still showed good vision. He went to cut back through the hole, but was just a split second too late as a Chargers defensive linemen already had a hold of him. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 61. Stats: Targeted 11 times, catching 6 passes for 123 yards and 1 touchdown.
Thomas had a down game last week, but turned it around. He was back to his normal form, and not just statistically either. His route running was back to what is normally seen from him and he looked his usual self after the catch, as well. Everything about his game was back to normal and when he plays like that, he is nearly unstoppable. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 59. Stats: Targeted 3 times, catching 3 passes for 53 yards.
Sanders played a good game as well, though it does not show just how good of a game he played in the stats. The only weakness to his game remains as a blocker. Alhough he tries hard with his blocks, he is just too small to be very effective. As a receiver, he was so hard to cover and was consistently pulling double teams and beating them against the Chargers. He should have a touchdown, but Manning failed to see him with a step on his cover assignment in the back of the endzone. His grade: B.
WR Wes Welker
Snaps: 46. Stats: Targeted 3 times, catching 2 passes for 16 yards.
Welker played a really good game. He was effective whenever the ball went his way. He picked up some first downs; one by drawing a flag for pass interference on the Chargers. Drawing the flag was a veteran play that kept the drive alive for the Broncos. His grade: B.
Snaps: 4. Stats: None.
All four of Caldwell’s snaps came as a run blocker. He is not the most effective blocker, but does a better job than Sanders or Welker. When called upon to block, he did a solid job, but nothing special. His grade: C.
TE Virgil Green
Snaps: 50. Stats: None.
Green is the best run blocker on the team that isn’t an offensive linemen. No, not just the best run blocker but best blocker, period. He is so good at his craft that he has become the stating tight end for the Broncos, with Thomas subbing in when certain situations arise. He is a free agent after this season and he should be one of the higher priorities for the Broncos. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 29. Stats: Targeted 2 times, catching 1 pass for 30 yards. 1 pass dropped.
Thomas was not the starter for the Broncos, and as long as they stick with their run-first offense, he won’t be the starter. His blocking is so bad that, if they stick with run first, he will be subbing in as a receiving tight end in certain situations. They also should avoid using him as a blocker as much as possible. His grade: C.
TE Dominique Jones
Snaps: 4. Stats: None.
All four of Jones' snaps came as a run blocker. He actually did really well. I would not be surprised if they used him more as a second tight end, instead of a sixth offensive linemen. If they do that, it makes the offense a bit more versatile, as a tight end can go catch a pass. An offensive linemen can as well, but the odds are, if they are out there, they are staying in to block. His grade: C+.
LT Ryan Clady
Snaps: 13. Stats: 1 sack allowed.
Clady left the game early with a thigh injury. Before he left, however, he was not playing his best game. He was being exploited as a run blocker and Melvin Ingram destroyed Clady to strip the ball from Manning. Clady’s best play came from recovering that fumble. His grade: D.
Snaps: 66. Stats: None.
Franklin played a solid game. He made mistakes, but also made great plays. He has seemingly settled down at guard over the last few weeks and is making fewer mental mistakes. For the whole game, Franklin was pretty consistent from start to finish. His grade: B.
Snaps: 66. Stats: 1 quarterback hurry.
Montgomery played a really rough game vs. the Chargers. He struggled to get consistent push in the run game and his pass blocking was not that strong. He did make some great blocks, as most offensive linemen do, but his mistakes outnumbered them. His grade: D.
Snaps: 66. Stats: None.
Ramirez played a solid game. He was getting solid push on a semi-consistent basis in the run game and was able to execute as a pass blocker. He made some mistakes, but they were small and very few. His play used to be plagued with mistake after mistake and mental errors, but it recently has been nearly the polar opposite of that. His grade: B.
Snaps: 66. Stats: None.
Vasquez showed well as a pass blocker, although he did get beat a few times, only to be saved by a quick throw. His real issues came in the run game. He made the big blocks a few times, but was mostly beaten at the point of attack by the Chargers defensive line. His grade: C-.
LT Chris Clark
Snaps: 60. Stats: 1 quarterback hit allowed and 1 quarterback hit allowed.
Clark started as the sixth offensive linemen for a hurt Paul Cornick. He was then moved to left tackle, due to an injury to Clady. He did not play well by any means. He was consistently pushed around in the run game, and is a big reason the Broncos struggled to move the ball on the ground off the left side. His pass blocking was inconsistent at best. He did make some nice blocks in pass protection, but was mostly being pushed back. His grade: F.
Garland played two snaps as a run blocker. Both came as the sixth offensive linemen after Clady left the game and Chris Clark moved to left tackle. He did well with his blocks each time. His grade: C.
The Broncos played a solid game. Most of their issues on offense came from play-calling and failing to execute said play, or because the offensive line failed. This was a divisional game and the Chargers had a lot to play for and their defense made it hard for the Broncos. Moving forward, the Broncos just need to clean up a couple areas on offense. Right now, they are holding themselves back with mental mistakes that they shouldn’t be making.
Next up are the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. It is the second to last game of the season and the Broncos need a win in order to clinch a first round bye. It should be a tough game against the Bengals defense, but the Broncos can win. They just need to play clean football.