The Broncos escaped what would have been a soul crushing defeat Monday night thanks to the outstretched arm of Shelby Harris. Both the offense and defense showed signs at times of a playoff caliber team. However, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding Denver after week one.
Trevor Siemian displayed everything you need in a starting quarterback with a defense to back him up. Siemian looked poised in the pocket and demonstrated excellent ball placement, specifically on third down. Denver finished with 53.3 percent efficiency on third down which was fifth best in week one. Quarterbacks make their money on third down and Siemian delivered. A missed touchdown to a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders and a lucky break on a dropped pick-six are the only things preventing Siemian from an A performance. Grade: B+
It’s not flashy and you won’t see anything close to “star wars numbers”, but ball control and a commitment to the run is a winning formula. Denver ran the ball 36 times for 140 yards, which was also fifth best in week one. The Broncos also held the ball for nearly ten minutes longer than the Chargers. A strong run game was clearly lacking a year ago. A costly turnover put the Chargers back in the game, but a healthy CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles will be Trevor Siemian’s best friend. Grade: B
One of the biggest question marks this team faced heading into this season was Denver’s ability to stop the run. It’s been the Achilles heel of a defense that is the epitome of a shutdown secondary. Consider the first test passed. The Chargers finished with 64 yards rushing after giving up 21 on the first carry. Playing without Jared Crick, Adam Gotsis, second year defensive end, was a pleasant surprise. They’ll face their biggest test next week as Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line head into town. Grade: B+
No fly zone
The loss of TJ Ward was hardly noticed. The tackling efficiency of Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons was top notch. Other than a few pass interference calls on Bradley Roby and a few miss communications, Denver’s secondary remains as advertised. The names of Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib were rarely tested on Monday night keeping the Chargers top two targets to a combined 89 yards. Grade: B+
The woes of previous seasons continue to arise year in and year out. The offensive line struggled to protect Siemian all night long, specifically along the edge. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram had their way with both tackles to combine for three sacks and four total team sacks. Siemian was also hit nine times.
Vance Joseph took specific note of it after the game. “Again, the pass protection was not where it has to be for us to be a good football team. We were facing two elite rushers last night and most people don’t have two. But in our division, every team has two. We’ve got to improve there.”
Menelik Watson, one of Denver’s newest additions that were brought in to fill in the holes, looked uncomfortable. Watson has also struggled with injuries at times. It will be interesting to see where the Broncos go from here. If Denver can’t protect Siemian, we will be seeing Brock Osweiler sooner than we’d like. Grade: D
What else we know
Let’s face it. The AFC west is the best division in football. The Andy Reid led Chiefs again looked well-coached with plenty of gadgets and speed as they handled the defending world champion Patriots. The Raiders went on the road to Tennessee and punched a talented Titan team in the mouth. The Raiders newest addition Marshawn Lynch looked rejuvenated after a year off. He finished with 76 yards on 18 carries to go along with Derek Carr’s 262 yards and two touchdowns. This division is going to be a constant fight.