In Week 15 the Denver Broncos lost 27-20 at home against the San Diego Chargers. It was their third loss of the season, and it was the first time the Broncos lost at home this year. The loss also represented the first time Peyton Manning lost to an AFC West opponent.
In defeat the Broncos briefly lost control of their playoff destiny. The Broncos were trying to hold off the New England Patriots for the top seed in the AFC.
They quickly regained control of their path when the Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. If the Broncos win their next two games, they will get a first-round bye, and they will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
After the Thursday night game, John Fox was asked if he felt the team came out flat. “I’d say that we didn’t have our best stuff tonight, I’d agree with that. They obviously did a better job getting ready on the short week than we did. I thought our guys battled back in the second half. We couldn’t get them off the field on third down, and we couldn’t stay on the field enough on third down. I think basically they played better than we did in all three phases.”
Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to lead the offense. The Chargers controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 38:49.
When Manning was on the field, he primarily kept things close to the line of scrimmage. He was only sacked twice against the Chargers, but the defense made sure to take away his deep targets.
Manning talked after the game about what went wrong. “Probably can pinpoint first and second down—we weren’t good enough. Got some 3rd-and-longs and never got into much of a flow. Oftentimes when we’re playing well, we’re getting first down, second down back to first down. That’s kind of how it was that first drive.
And then when you get a third down, you have some rhythm. We had some three-and-outs backed up, didn’t do a good enough job changing field position. As a result, gave their offense better field position. I think 1-of-7 on third down tonight—that’s not good enough. There’s not many third downs, but like I said, the ones we have, we have to try to convert them.”
The Broncos were clearly not themselves on Thursday night. The teams they face in the playoffs may try the same game plan the Chargers had.
This was the first game of the season where the Broncos allowed a 100-yard rusher. Ryan Mathews ran for 127 yards on 29 carries. The interior of the Broncos defensive line was pushed around most of the night.
On Friday, Fox talked about the struggles of the defense. “I think the difference is, instead of scoring 30, 40, 50 we scored 20 [points]. It’s something that we’re working on. It’s something that we have to get better at. I don’t think it’s acceptable for anybody, including those guys in that room.
I think they understand that and we have to get better to get where we want to go. Having said that, I think we lost our third game, not our 13th. We don’t think the sky is falling. So it’s like, I think everybody in the league, is trying to get better every day.”
Check out the grades for each Broncos player against the Chargers.
All quotes and injury/practice observations were obtained firsthand. Record/Statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.