The Denver Broncos defense was outstanding against the San Diego Chargers. They put pressure on Philip Rivers all day, and allowed him only ten drop backs without facing some kind of pressure. That is ten out of 39 drop backs.
They also kept him from hitting his wide receivers. He threw eight passes to a wide receiver and connected on four of them, only one for a first down. The Broncos were in control all game, and it was quite obvious that was the case.
With that said, it is time for the main event, the player grades.
Derek Wolfe, DE
Snaps: 60. Stats: 3 QB hits, 5 hurries, 5 tackles.
Not much to say about Wolfe’s game, except that he was excellent. The last few weeks Wolfe has really stepped up his play as a run defender and as a pass rusher. What is amazing is the fact that one of the best run defenders in the NFL, just keeps getting better. Even though he isn’t known for his pass rush, his play the last few weeks would make one think otherwise. He was excellent all game long.
Vance Walker, NT
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 tackle.
With Sylvester Williams out for the game, Walker stepped into the starting nose tackle position. He looked solid against the run, but wasn’t the force he normally is from the edge. Part of that is due to the difference of job and role from the edge to interior. As for pass rush, he didn’t show anything worth noting. No pressures, and little to no push.
Malik Jackson, DE
Snaps: 52. Stats: 5 QB hits, 1 hurry, 1 batted pass, 2 tackles.
The one weak spot for Jackson was with his run defense, and it wasn’t all that weak against the Chargers. In fact, there were only three negative notes for his run defense on the entire game. As for his pass rush, it was simply outstanding. It didn’t matter if facing a single blocker or a double team. It didn’t matter if he was being held or not. He was constantly in the Chargers quarterback's face all game long.
Von Miller, OLB
Snaps: 50. Stats: 2 sacks, 1 QB hit, 4 hurries, 4 tackles.
The pass rusher was excellent in all phases. He brought the heat with Wolfe and Jackson all game long, as the trio brought a total of 21 pressures on Rivers, including two sacks (both by Miller). The last few weeks, he has been great getting after the passer, despite low snap count, but he has struggled in the run game. That changed against the Chargers, however. His run defense was excellent, and he was constantly in proper position.
Brandon Marshall, ILB
Snaps: 58. Stats: 3 tackles.
The run defense from Marshall was very good. However, he does a lot more than that, and everything else just wasn’t up to par. The Chargers were able to move the ball through the air primarily with their tight ends and running backs, because the Broncos coverage guys just couldn’t hang with them. As a run defender, Marshall has become one of the best run defending inside linebackers in the NFL, but he still has to grow as a coverage backer.
Danny Trevathan, ILB
Snaps: 32. Stats: 2 tackles.
To make it simple and easy, everything that was said about Marshall can be said for Trevathan. The difference is though, Trevathan is slightly better as a run defender, while Marshall is slightly better in coverage. The Chargers game really reinforced that thought.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 33. Stats: 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 hurry, 1 stop, 3 tackles.
Starting in place of DeMarcus Ware once again, Barrett played an excellent game. His run defense was stout, as it has been all season. As for his pass rush, it has been a little on the stale side, but against the Chargers it was fresh and vibrant. The youngster keeps improving as the season goes on, and has become one heck of a football player.
Aqib Talib, CB
Snaps: 66. Stats: 2 tackles.
The corner actually played a great game, and didn’t have a breakdown in discipline. His play was a big reason why the Chargers had a hard time getting the ball to their wide receivers. He shut down his man consistently throughout the game. To top it all off, he was stellar helping out against the run.
David Bruton, SS
Snaps: 58. Stats: 12 tackles.
Starting in place of T.J. Ward, Bruton really played a good game. He had some miscues, especially in coverage, but most were due to his aggressive play style. When having to step up and help against the run, Bruton was excellent. When going from Ward to Bruton there was very little noticeable drop off in overall play of the team.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 66. Stats: 2 tackles.
The free safety had his ups and downs against the Chargers. One thing that showed consistently was his knowledge of the game and high football IQ. He was just reading the plays immediately and reacting so well. The downs from his game came primarily in run defense, but there were a few in coverage as well.
Chris Harris, Jr., CB
Snaps: 64. Stats: 2 tackles.
Not much new to be said about Harris. He played a huge part in shutting down the receivers, and was effective helping out against the run. The only big knock on Harris is the fact he gave a Charger a hug, which nullified his pick-six. Now contact within five yards of the line of scrimmage is allowed, and the Chargers receiver contacted Harris, but you can’t hug the player like Harris did. That should be obvious and was a clear cut call.
That wraps up the starters. Now time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 tackle.
The pass rusher played very well when getting after the QB. There was some decent push from him each pass rush snap he got. However, he played very little against the run, and when he did, it wasn’t pretty.
Darius Kilgo, NT
Snaps: 14. Stats: N/A.
The rookie backup nose tackle saw a good amount of action rotating with Walker for the injured Williams. Kilgo looked solid in everything he was asked to do. It was clear he is a rookie, but he has shown growth from earlier on in the season.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 39. Stats: 1 sack, 4 tackles.
The rookie pass rusher really played a great game. There was a slight drop off in overall play when Ray took the field in place of Miller or Barrett, mostly in run defense. Ray was really able to provide some consistent push rushing the passer, even though he managed only one pressure. While his run defense wasn’t as strong as the two starters, it wasn’t a glaring weakness for Ray as it has been in previous games.
Lerentee McCray, OLB
Snaps: 11. Stats: 2 tackles.
The reserve linebackers played an excellent game, especially when defending the run. He had one play where he showed perfect technique as he blew up the blocker, disengaged and then brought down the ball carrier. His pass rush was strong, but he was really limited in what he could do by the Chargers offensive line.
Corey Nelson, ILB
Snaps: 10. Stats: 2 tackles.
At one point in the game Danny Trevathan left due to concussion symptoms. Nelson was the primary guy to step in for him, and Nelson looked really good in doing so. He was quick, and smart, which he consistently showed.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 38. Stats: 1 tackle.
The No. 3 corner really played a solid game, though he had some issues in coverage, but not many. He just allowed separation a bit too much, but got bailed out with the pressure put on the Chargers quarterback up front. As for him helping out for the run defense, he rarely had to come down and help, but he always made sure to be in proper position to do so.
Omar Bolden, S
Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 tackle.
The backup safety saw limited action due to injuries. He was able to show his speed on the field, and didn’t look like he was completely lost, as he has done in the past. There are some concerns with his physicality and willingness to defend the run, but it only showed once or twice against San Diego.
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