#1 rushing offense in the NFL vs. #2 rushing defense in the NFL
LaDainian Tomlinson gained just 38 yards in the first half on 13 carries. The problem: Chester McGlockton and Lional Dalton were dominating the interior line. This allowed the linebacking trio of Al Wilson, Ian Gold, and John Mobley to stay in their lanes and let Tomlinson come to them instead of having to chase him and allow Tomlinson cutback lanes. There were no cutback lanes. As the defensive line of Denver dominated, the linebacking trio merely had to sit in the "open" holes and make their tackles. They did just that and in the second half when the Chargers were down 19-0, Tomlinson had 1 carry.
Denver defensive end Trevor Pryce said of stopping cutbacks, "Wait for people to come to you, that's the key. If you're overzealous trying to make a play, trying to do too much, that's when cutbacks happen. Wait for him to come to you, and if he doesn't run to your gap, now you go find him."
They did just that. On the day the Chargers ran for 79 yards. Not bad, but the play calling doomed the run game. The Broncos realized coming in that to limit Tomlinson was to stop the Chargers and Marty Ball. Drew Brees has yet to hit his stride in the passing game and the Chargers vanilla offense failed to pose a threat as a team that can beat you in the air. So in the first half when the Broncos were stacking the box, the Chargers could do nothing to make the Broncos think that was a mistake and paid for it.
Tomlinson provided these candid remarks, "They knew exactly what we were going to do. I think you saw a team that was ready to play and really came after us."
Pressure Brian Griese
The Broncos relied on quick drops much as the New England Patriots did a week before. The Broncos also changed things up with a no-huddle offense. Griese was calling 2 plays every time they huddled up and he would check off at the line if he needed to for the second play. The difference was there was no Junior Seau in the game to provide leadership and make big plays and the Chargers defense could not recover quick enough to prevent big plays or provide a spark with pressuring Griese.
Normally Seau is one of the primary blitzers, but in this game very few blitzes came Griese's way. When they did in the form of Ben Leber they were snuffed out and completions were made.
Marcellus Wiley left the game early with a groin injury and the defensive line of the Chargers never got into any rhythm. Sure Jason Fisk and Raylee Johnson had sacks, but none came in the first half when the game was decided.
By halftime, Griese had completed 18 of 22 attempts for 226 yards as the Broncos moved to a 19-0 lead. Among the four incompletions were two drops and two spikes. The Broncos were also able to run on the Chargers. Clinton Portis ran for 61 yards in the pivotal first half. This combination and the lack of a pass rush doomed the Chargers.
In fact, Griese's yardage in the first half exceeded his final totals in each of the first three games of the season against St. Louis (202), San Francisco (119) and Buffalo (211).
So the streak of Denver allowing 3 or more sacks is at an end. Without consistent pressure the secondary and linebackers were stuck in coverage way too long. In the NFL, it is just a matter of time before a receiver gets open when the QB has all day to throw.
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