Then there was some bad news. C.J. Anderson had to undergo surgery on a torn meniscus, putting him on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season. Losing a player of that caliber like Anderson, someone that instrumental, the lifeblood of the team; it's a tough pill to swallow.
The goal is clear, now. Get to the playoffs, get C.J. back, and go on another run. That, of course, starts with winning the division, the highly-competitive AFC West.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1721821-broncos-place-anderson-on... Right now, the Broncos are 0-1 within the division. That one loss was to the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago. Life comes at you quick, and it certainly does for these two teams, because they're back it after just 17 days.
The Broncos may not have won, but their loss in San Diego will highlight a number of things they must correct in order to get it right this time around. Let's dig a little deeper and see just what the Broncos need to do to secure a much-needed divisional win.
Change Starts at the T.O.P.
Blink, and you may have missed the Broncos offense in the first half of the game in San Diego. The Chargers didn't just control the clock in the first half, they kidnapped it, tied it up, and almost lit it on fire.
Through the first 30 minutes of football, the Chargers owned 20:27 while the Broncos were fortunate to hang on to the ball for 9:27. If not for a muffed punt, those numbers would have been even more lopsided. But how did it get that way?
It all boils down to one thing in particular; third downs. You have to convert them on offense, and you have to hold on defense. Denver achieved neither of those objectives early against the Bolts.
The Chargers, behind the passing of Philip Rivers, converted all of their third-down situations in the first quarter, a major reason why the football was in their hands for so long.
To some extent, Rivers is always going to get his. But Denver simply cannot give him extra opportunities to extend drives and keep the chains moving. Rivers excels on long, time consuming drives where he can skate down the field one crossing route at a time.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1721473-film-room-studying-new-br... The way he did that last time was simple; he neutralized Denver's pass rush. Rather than dropping five or seven steps, Rivers used quick three-step drops and got the ball out of his hands quickly. Shane Ray and Von Miller were rushing straight up the field, and to be honest, it rendered them completely useless. Every time Rivers stepped up and the San Diego tackles guided Miller and Ray up the field, it was like the Broncos were playing defense with nine men.
They must combat that with interior rush. If Derek Wolfe can get in Rivers' face and threaten to eat one of his many, many children, the quick rhythm of the passing game will be disrupted. If Jared Crick can do anywhere near the same, the Broncos will be in great shape.
Two weeks ago, Trevor Siemian threw the ball 50 times. That's a little less than ideal, to say the least. By contrast, Siemian threw the ball just half of that, 25 times, in Denver's win against Houston last Monday.
It makes sense why they did it, Denver fell behind 21-3 at one point and had to climb out of that hole by any means necessary. But if the Broncos can run the ball, and do so with some success, they won't dig a hole for themselves in the first place.
Gary Kubiak, for whatever reason, has some sort of strange obsession with beginning almost every game with a cluster of passes, as if he's trying to prove to everyone that yes, he trusts Trevor Siemian. We believe you, Gary. A couple of runs to get things going won't cause us to doubt that.
Especially in Gary Kubiak's offense, the run sets up the pass more than the other way around. We saw that on Monday, when the hard running of Anderson and Devontae Booker got the defense cheating, which opened up the play-action to open receivers like Jon Gruden fever dream, Andy Janovich.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1721491-is-matt-paradis-the-nfl-s... Led by Denzel Perryman, the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and rookie Joey Bosa, who has four sacks in three games, San Diego's front seven plugs up the running lanes pretty well. It's fairly imperative that Denver gets a healthy Matt Paradis to clear a few running lanes in the middle for Booker, and Max Garcia will have to build on a strong performance last week on the left side.
The man behind Booker, Kapri Bibbs, needs to make the most of his increased role in the absence of C.J. Anderson. He's by far the quickest running back in Denver's stable, so it would be wise to use him like they did with Ronnie Hillman; get him on the edge with quick passes, stretch runs, and toss plays.
To some extent, the balance accomplishes both of these first two goals. Run the ball, get into favorable down-and-distances, and control the tie of possession. Football string theory. One hand washes the other, and so on.
Make the Secondary a Primary Target
On Denver's first possession, Trevor Siemian loaded up and threw a bomb down the left sideline for Emmanuel Sanders. It was just a touch too far as Siemian was under duress and had to let the ball go a hair early. Had they connected, the game might have gone a bit differently.
If the Chargers can be had, it is most certainly in their secondary. They are, most notably, without the services of perhaps their best defender, Jason Verrett. That leaves a less-than-intimidating, crime-fighting cornerback duo of Casey Hayward and Brandon Flowers.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1722210-four-broncos-questionable... Denver did it well when they went after Kareem Jackson last week. It's all about exploiting a defense's weakness. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it; San Diego's corners struggle against dynamic wide receivers, as was the case when they gave up nine catches and 174 yards to Julio Jones in their win against Atlanta last week.
Simply put, the Chargers didn't have the length at corner to compete for the ball with Jones, and there's not much of a difference in size with Demaryius Thomas.
Another shortcoming of the Chargers corners, Hayward in particular, is that they don't tackle very well. Think back to Week 17 of last season when DT caught a quick out pass from the Brocket Ship, broke a handful of poor tackles, and raced 72 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Here's an idea: do more of that. Quick screens, hitches, and slants. Whatever it takes, get the ball in the hands of the athletic wide receiver corps and let them Y.A.C. the Broncos to sweet victory.
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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.