Jussel: Unlucky S.D. a tough foe for exposed Broncos
The sky is falling!
The end is near!
Meteors, asteroids, Trump or Clinton! Oh my.
The Denver Broncos have been exposed! Oh my.
Worse things have happened. You tell me when first glancing at the Broncos schedule and seeing Carolina, Indy and Cincy to start, followed by Tampa Bay and Atlanta, you wouldn’t have taken 4-1?
Sure you would have.
As the stars are presently aligned, the Broncos are tied atop the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders. Kansas City is 2-2 and the San Diego Chargers are 1-4 — despite having outscored their opponents.
Did I mention the Chargers — a team that has made losing an art form — are Denver’s foe tonight in San Diego?
It’s the unlucky vs. the exposed.
The Chargers won at home in Week 2 against Jacksonville 38-14. That’s their upside.
In Week 1, they looked like one of the best NFL teams ever assembled in running up a 21-point lead over the Chiefs in Kansas City. They blew it in the second half, losing 33-27.
Week 3 saw two lost fumbles in the final 62 seconds of a 26-22 loss to the Colts. In Week 4, they blew a 13-point lead in the final five minutes of a 35-34 loss to the Saints.
Sunday in Week 5, the Chargers almost brought head coach Mike McCoy to tears and quarterback Philip Rivers was claiming they were the Bad News Bears after punter and holder Drew Kaser botched a field goal snap with two minutes left in a 34-31 loss to the Raiders.
Did I mention that Kaser is averaging a high school-like 39.1 yards per punt this season? Did I mention that Kaser shanked a 16-yard punt that set up a late Raider touchdown? Did I mention that Kaser is questionable for tonight’s game with a back injury?
Did I mention that Kaser might be looking for employment elsewhere, as might Charger coach McCoy if the Chargers lose tonight?
Did I also mention that Manti Te’o, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett are all on the injured reserve, certainly leading to some of the dark cloud surrounding San Diego?
Now, let’s check out the exposed:
Bronco fans have spent the past two seasons watching outside linebackers Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett crash into quarterbacks repeatedly. Didn’t any upcoming Bronco opponent bring up the possibility of flare passes to a running back over or around the pass rush?
Falcon head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had that brilliant idea to do that repeatedly — not to mention numerous draw plays — in Atlanta’s 23-16 statement win over Denver on Sunday.
Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked only twice as he soft-tossed to running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman for 167 yards. That duo also combined to rush for 119 yards. That’s 286 yards for two running backs who spent most of the afternoon tip-toeing around rapidly approaching pass rushers.
Yes, the Broncos were exposed defensively.
And, yes, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will adjust and, yes, the Broncos will still be a good defensive team.
There is, however, further exposure:
Atlanta defensive end Vic Beasley had one sack going into Sunday’s game. He now has 4.5 sacks on the season. Do the math.
Beasley, starting across from Denver tackle Ty Sambrailo most of the time, also came up with eight solo tackles in the game, meaning the Broncos were running to their right much of the time.
Sambrailo is a second-year player who is starting at present for the injured Donald Stephenson. Sambrailo himself is just coming off injuries that have prevented him from needed upper body training for the better part of a year. The former Colorado State star may be a good player down the road. He is not one now.
So, the Chargers have been unlucky, the Broncos exposed.
Which trend continues?
Gary Kubiak, Denver’s head coach, is on the injury list with a form of migraine.
Trevor Siemian, Denver’s starting quarterback, missed Sunday’s game and most of the previous game against Tampa Bay with a shoulder injury. Paxton Lynch, the rookie backup, looked OK against Tampa, puzzled and unsure against Atlanta, a team that came into Denver with a terrible defense. Who plays and for how long?
McCoy is in must-win mode as Charger head coach. Rivers is still Rivers.
I’ll take my 3-2 record picking with or against Denver and say the prime time lights finally shine on the Chargers.
San Diego, 27-24.
Bonus point: Kansas City is at Oakland on Sunday.