Tim Tebow's Performance and 5 Other Takeaways from Sunday's Loss to the Chargers
The Broncos lost to the San Diego Chargers 29-24 after trailing by 23-10 at halftime in a game that head coach John Fox pulled starting quarterback Kyle Orton for fan favorite Tebow.
The game was close at the end, and there are six key takeaways to review and build on as the Broncos enter a bye week in Week 6.
Great Defensive Pressure on Philip Rivers
One of the key parts of the matchup defensively that kept the Broncos in this game was the incessant pressure applied to the Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Broncos were coming after him all the time and had five sacks in the game. Robert Ayers had a strip sack that gave the Broncos great field position, setting up Tebow and the offense with a short field to score a touchdown, pulling within two points of the Chargers.
It was this great pass rush that held Rivers, one of the top quarterbacks in the league, to only 250 yards Sunday.
The pass rush was also coming from all over the defense. Von Miller had his fifth sack this season. Ryan McBean, a backup defensive tackle, had a sack. Ayers had two sacks. D.J. Williams also got a sack.
Inconsistent Defensive Performance
Now to what needs improvement.
The Broncos defense shined at moments, but when the team needed it most, it faded, surrendering huge plays, making key mental mistakes and blowing coverage to set the Chargers up with prime field position to clinch the game.
Right before halftime, Rivers burnt Cassius Vaughn on a deep pass to Malcom Floyd for a touchdown to tack on another seven points. Vaughn was out of position, giving the Chargers easy points.
On the final drive, which ultimately put the game out of reach for the Broncos, rookie Quinton Carter was torched by Floyd for a 38-yard reception that put the Chargers near field-goal range. Two plays later a costly unnecessary roughness penalty was called on Williams in retaliation to some extracurricular activity at the end of the play.
The Broncos defense was both an important reason the Broncos were in this game, and the reason the Broncos came up short in the end. Unfortunately, when it really mattered the defense had a few costly mistakes that Denver never recovered from in the closing minutes.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has to address these mental mistakes and maybe make some personnel adjustments to avoid the inconsistencies on defense.
Strong Effort by the Offensive Line
As opposed to the five sacks the Broncos had on the Chargers, the Chargers were unable to get any sacks on the Broncos quarterbacks. That's not to say that there was no pressure on the Broncos quarterbacks, though it's nice to see a blank slate on sack tallies for the opposing team.
The Broncos offensive linemen have really started coming together to provide pockets and some time for their quarterback to see the field and make some plays.
Wide Receivers Couldn't Get Any Separation
On offense, the Broncos really struggled today, no matter who was in at quarterback.
The Broncos wide receivers failed to get open or to create any sort of space between themselves and the defenders. The Chargers secondary blanketed Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker, Daniel Fells, Matthew Willis and Dante Rosario to the point where the line would get protection but the quarterback had no one open.
It was discouraging to watch time after time three-and-outs for the Broncos when the quarterback had to toss the ball away because no one could break free.
This is a developing problem that must be addressed. Part of this falls on the receivers, but some of it is a result of unimaginative play calling by offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Willis McGahee Still Has Something in the Tank
I was doubtful about the Broncos' decision to bring in Willis McGahee. I was with the rest of the fans who thought McGahee was a situational rusher for short-yardage plays and around the goal line.
Three out of the last four games, McGahee has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in a game.
McGahee isn't the type of back where you use him every set of downs, 25 to 30 plays per game. He has up to about 20 plays in a game. If you can pick the best opportunity to use those plays he will continue to eclipse the century mark rushing the ball on 15 to 20 carries and be a dynamic weapon to rely on throughout the season.
However, if the Broncos rely to heavily on McGahee, asking him to carry the ball 25-plus times per game, he might break down and their requests might be counterproductive.
Tim Tebow Is for Real
Tim Tebow is for real.
He isn't yet a polished NFL quarterback. However, again Tebow has proved that he belongs in the NFL and he has what it takes to move the football, pump up the team and excite fans.
Tebow was noticeably rusty in his first few attempts throwing the football. Several of his passes were at the feet of receivers or just out of their reach (some of those, though, were indeed catchable). However, Tebow has the passion and football sense to know when to take off, when to make a play with his legs and when to sit still and make the throw from the pocket.
Tebow had a 12-yard rushing touchdown to break the Broncos out of a 35-plus-minute slump for the Broncos where they hadn't put a single point on the board. The ensuing drive for the Broncos, Tebow made a short screen pass that Knowshon Moreno turned into a 28-yard receiving touchdown to bring the Broncos to within two points of the Chargers.
Tebow took a stagnant, apathetic Broncos offense and breathed life into it, leading Denver to 14 second-half points and almost winning on a desperation hurl that was knocked away by the defense.
He is still a long way away, but on-the-job experience will be just the ticket for Tebow to develop into a winning quarterback in the NFL.