The Denver Broncos’ backs are against the wall. After the Giant letdown a week ago, it’s time for Denver to kick the urgency level into another gear. The Broncos are set to begin their three game road trip Sunday with an “away” game against the Chargers. Denver will look to do something that they didn’t do all of last season, win a road divisional game. Here are this week’s keys to making sure the Broncos get back on track. It’s gut check time.
1st Down: Jump-start the running game
Trevor Siemian’s shoulders are not strong enough to carry this team through the air. Against the Giants, the Broncos elected to throw the ball all over the field as Siemian attempted an outrageous 50 passes. Siemian’s resume blatantly shows that’s not how you’re going to win football games. Instead, the Broncos must get back to what they do best, running the football.
Luckily for Denver, the Chargers are the league’s worst team in stopping the run by giving up on average 152.5 yards per game. In week one against Los Angeles, running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combined for 121 yards on 30 carries against this exact same front.
Establishing the running game will also be a huge aid in the team’s red zone struggles. The Broncos are two for 11 in the red area during their last three games. A strong running game will not only take a load off of Siemian’s shoulders, it will also help him escape the pocket with play action. If Denver can’t run the ball, they have no shot.
2nd Down: Hide right tackle woes
The Broncos have had a glaring issue at right tackle. Menelik Watson who has struggled, to put it kindly, is OUT Sunday with a calf injury. His replacement Donald Stephenson is also OUT with a calf injury. Allen Barbre is now set to make the start at right tackle. Barbre will have his hands full with doses of Los Angeles’s passing rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Both rushers are in the top ten in the league in totals sacks with a combined 13 quarterback takedowns to go along with three forced fumbles. The Broncos would be smart to turn back the clock and return to the screen passing game. History tells us that Demaryius Thomas and Jamaal Charles are well equipped for that.
3rd Down: Hunt down Henry
The Broncos continue to struggle covering tight ends. It seems like the same story every week. On Sunday night, Denver let the one pass-catching-playmaker tight end Evan Engram shred the Broncos early and often for 82 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers have their own dynamic pass catching tight ends with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Henry wasn’t targeted in the team’s first meeting. However, the young tight end has been targeted 26 times since and is coming off of a career high 90 yards receiving. With opposing quarterbacks refusing to test Aqib Talib, you can bet the house Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers will follow the blue print laid down by looking for his tight ends.
4th Down: Get back to forcing turnovers
The Broncos’ defense took on a new focus this week causing turnovers. While defensive coordinator, Joe Woods didn’t go full Jack Del Rio and show sharks attacking seals; he did put together a montage of teams around the league forcing turnovers.
Through five games, the Broncos have just four interceptions and are the only team that has yet to force a fumble. A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that teams are just not throwing the football down the field. Instead, they’ve turned to quick underneath passes. Rivers is a gun-slinger at heart. How he takes care of the football can make or break it this week.
The loss of a week ago still stings because of what could have been. However, the Chiefs’ loss on Thursday night to the Raiders keeps the door cracked open for Denver to keep pace in the Wild West.
With the upcoming schedule, a loss on Sunday to the Chargers could set the dominos to fall on their season as the schedule continues to toughen. In a nervous prediction, the Broncos win 20-17 thanks to a defensive touchdown from Aqib Talib and a Von Miller forced fumble. It’s time for Denver to release their demons. It’s now or never.