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Throughout the entire 2018-19 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.
The Broncos found some unlikely heroes and saw their leaders step up in their 23-22 upset of the Los Angeles Chargers. We break it all down.
STANDOUTS FROM THE GAME
Phillip Lindsay: A+
- Lindsay had a dominant performance, impacting Denver’s ability to win the game more than anyone with multiple touchdowns and clutch third-down conversions.
- On 15 touches, he averaged an absurd seven yards per, as he produced chunk plays on almost every touch he had. His effectiveness with a relatively low amount of touches is incredible.
- Ran it with great vision, patience, and lethal burst, which he displayed on both his TDs including a 41-yard bomb he capitalized with a Mile High Salute.
- A true game-breaking performance.
Bradley Chubb: A
- Chubb was relentless in this one, making multiple plays against the run. All seven of his tackles came on stops around the line of scrimmage.
- He was a menace rushing the passer with a venomous sack on an inside move, produced another QB hit on third down, and yet another pressure on Adam Gotsis’ sack.
- Played assignment-sound football, drew an offsides flag but also forced a hold down in the red zone.
- Another big-time performance by the rookie who now has nine sacks and 38 pressures on the year.
Von Miller: A
- Von might not have been as relentless as Chubb, but made the most of his impact plays with two game-changing plays including his interception and big return.
- Was just unstoppable at times off the edge, pressuring Rivers and getting a great sack, making it almost look easy.
- Read screens to perfection on his interception and on the key final third down, forcing an inexplicable incomplete by Phillip Rivers.
Billy Turner: A+
- Turner was mauling in the ground game, getting up to the second level and opening up big holes.
- Did a great job getting out in space to set up a Lindsay screen and bullied the Chargers defensive line, opening up the big hole for Lindsay’s 41-yard run.
- Allowed a run stop but was terrific otherwise.
Domata Peko: C+
- Peko had a quiet game statistically with zero flash plays, but was essential in plugging gaps against the run on a consistent basis in only 50 percent of the snaps.
- He did help Chubb on a run stuff, clogging the gap up the middle as No. 55 came off the edge.
Derek Wolfe: B-
- Wolfe was stout against the run with a run stuff and added a quarterback hurry, as well, in an otherwise quiet pass rushing performance.
- It wasn’t all good as he couldn’t bring Rivers down in the red zone on a pressure, allowing him to extend the play and find Keenan Allen for the 13-7 TD.
- Early on, he was plowed out the way by a double team as Melvin Gordon ran right up his gap for an eight-yard gain.
Adam Gotsis: A
- Gotsis has been on a tear lately, consistently making impact plays despite appearing in less than half the snaps.
- Generated a sack off a nice inside move, wiggling his way into the backfield after bull rushing the LG for a huge second-quarter sack—backing up the Chargers, who, facing 2nd-and-20 two plays later, threw an interception.
- Was strong penetrating against the run, in particular standing up Gordon in the backfield for a TFL after fighting through a double team.
- Added two more run stuffs.
Josey Jewell: D+
- Jewell was another important contributor to a strong game by the run defense, with a run stuff on Gordon and a couple other strong tackles on short gains.
- Was exposed in coverage on backs and tight ends, though, giving up four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
- Struggled especially in space where Austin Ekeler burned him a couple times outside as the LB took poor angles.
- Had a couple nice plays in coverage on Antonio Gates and Gordon, but was a liability more often than not.
Todd Davis: B
- Davis was a true thumper against the run and managed to hold his own in coverage.
- Came up with two run stuffs on Gordon, penetrating up the gut, and was impressive holding the speedy Ekeler for no gain on an outside run.
- He almost produced a tipped interception on active zone coverage in the red zone.
- Took a couple bad angles missing tackles against the run but was strong overall.
Darian Stewart: B
- Stewart made his presence felt in his return from injury, making strong tackles and bringing runners down in the open field on a consistent basis.
- Allowed only two receptions for eight yards on three targets; the worst of which on a short dump off to Allen in zone coverage to convert 3rd-and-1.
- Almost had an interception on a deep attempt that he ended up tipping as he was falling backward.
- Missed a tackle on Gordon on a 3rd-and-7 screen leading to a 32-yard gain, but he was solid otherwise.
Justin Simmons: D
- Simmons was targeted four times allowing three receptions for 57 yards.
- Conceded two passes of over 25 yards, first losing Virgil Green to the sideline and then Gates for a big 3rd-and-6 conversion late.
- Was strong coming up to tackle and get stops—maybe to an excess leading to an unnecessary roughens flag.
- Not his best game in coverage by a long shot.
Chris Harris Jr.: C-
- Harris was challenged a lot, and though he battled, he gave up six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown on seven targets.
- Was also flagged for defensive pass interference on a debatable penalty as he and Allen were hand fighting back and forth.
- Ultimately, he lost his one-on-one battle with Allen who matched his physicality and got open with savvy routes.
- Looked lost at times expecting help when it wasn’t there.
- Came up with a big interception, jumping an out-route and stretching out to haul in the pick.
- Made a couple tough tackle against the run too.
Bradley Roby: B+
- Roby was superb with two big pass deflections as he played sticky coverage.
- Was very reliable covering down field and flew in to make some tough tackles against the run as well.
- Battled with Mike Williams, allowing one 20-yard reception but also forcing both PDs on him, one on a huge 3rd-and-1 stop.
- Ended the day allowing two catches for 46 yards on five targets.
Other noteworthy defensive performances:
Tremaine Brock: C
- Allowed a big reception by Wiliams who ‘Mossed’ him down the sideline for 29 yards.
- On four other targets, he didn’t allow a single reception, though he wasn’t always turning his head to make a play on the ball and got lucky on a few inaccurate throws.
Will Parks: B
- Parks made some key tackles against the run, with a 2nd-and-2 run stuff on Gordon, holding him short of the sticks.
- Was strong and reliable when need to stop the ground game in nickel, a big part of Denver’ success in this one.
Zach Kerr: B+
- Played well against the run, producing a TFL busting up the middle and stuffing his gap, bringing Gordon down.
Sua Cravens: D
- Cravens struggled mightily against Gates, losing the TE twice on big third-down conversion.
- Allowed three receptions for 49 yards on the day.
Garett Bolles: A
- Bolles was clean in pass protection aside from a Joey Bosa QB hit, as the DE ran Keenum down from the backside.
- His strong game in pass protection was no small feat against LA’s talented group of pass rushers.
- Played a penalty-free game and did a decent job as a run blocker too, all with a new LG playing next to him.
- The LT’s best game since Week 1.
Connor McGovern: B+
- McGovern was as solid as can be, not always looking the prettiest but fighting his rear end off all game.
- Was sound in pass protection and efficient creating push for the ground game.
- Got out in space on a pull to lead the way for a Lindsay eight-yard run down in the red zone.
- Allowed a pressure up the middle on a 3rd-and-7 blitz in an otherwise clean performance.
Elijah Wilkinson: A-
- Wilkinson played a really efficient game in his debut as the starting right guard, avoiding any major mishaps.
- Made a wonderful play knocking Bosa down in pass protection on 3rd-and-4.
- Allowed a run stop on a two-yard gain with the defender just slipping inside of him but had a brilliant performance otherwise.
Jared Veldheer: B
- Veldheer was the sloppiest looking blocker on a really strong offensive line performance.
- His biggest issue came as he almost allowed a sack off his outside shoulder on Keenum, who cleverly threw it away as he was going down.
- At the same time, he did a nice job sealing the edge on Freeman’s TD run and another seven-yard scamper.
- All in all, he was strong blocking for both the run and pass.
Emmanuel Sanders: C-
- Sanders came alive for two big grabs in the second half but was quiet the rest of the game.
- Dropped a pass right at the sticks in the very first drive, was stopped for no gain on a screen, and had the ball knocked out for another incompletion.
Courtland Sutton: B-
- Sutton came up huge when it mattered most with a 30-yard catch off a deep in-route to put the Broncos in field goal position at the very end of the game.
- Produced another big catch and run for 39 yards, and had some big blocks on the perimeter as well.
- Did drop a pass on the very first play of the game but was clutch late.
Jeff Heuerman: D
- Heuerman struggled some as a blocker, allowing a QB pressure from Bosa on 3rd-and-3, a run stop, and whiffing on an outside block on a screen to Sanders.
- As a receiver, he didn’t contribute much either with a few short gains.
- Had a huge drop on 3rd-and-7 that would’ve put Denver within field-goal range down two, with less than four minutes remaining.
Case Keenum: B
- Keenum’s stats look quiet in a game where he mastered another comeback and drove the Broncos in field goal range to set them up for the winning kick.
- Only took what the defense gave him, throwing the ball away on multiple third downs, finishing with an underwhelming 33-percent conversion rate on third down.
- Had a few bad drops that could’ve allowed him to extend more drives but didn’t make any special completions in the first half.
- Threw some real darts in the fourth quarter for big gains, looking fearless with better timing and zip then we’ve seen all season.
- Flashed perfect ball placement on two big completions to Sutton allowing the talented rook to create extra YAC.
- Avoided pressure and errant throws at all cost.
- A gutsy and tough winning performance.
Other noteworthy offensive performances:
Royce Freeman: C-
- Freeman didn’t quite look like he was at 100 percent, struggling to make defenders miss in space.
- Did a nice job of lowering his shoulder and running tough up the middle down in the red zone, showing beautiful footwork to score his three-yard touchdown.
- Had a sequence touching the ball three consecutive times and couldn’t convert 2nd-and-3 and subsequently 3rd-and-2 in a mixed performance.
Special Teams: A
With a huge fourth-down throw by punter Colby Wadman on a fake punt, which led to Lindsay’s big TD run, and a game-winning 34-yard kick by Brandon McManus, special teams had a huge impact.
The kick return game wasn’t always clean, but the coverage team did a great job and the kicks—and throws—where clutch. A winning performance.
Bill Musgrave did a great job protecting Keenum and a banged up offensive line, keeping things simple while getting the running game rolling.
Joe Woods‘s defense struggled on third down through the first three quarters but prevailed when it mattered most. He did a good job of mixing coverages—which was especially key on the final defensive play of the game, as it appeared Denver was putting eight in the box only to drop back and force a throw in the dirt by a confused Rivers. The run defense was strong, too, as the ‘D’ also managed to create pressure.
Vance Joseph failed as a game manager; not challenging a two-point conversion that seemed good and opting to go for it on 4th-and-1 instead of taking the points, costing his team five points.
However, he was gutsy going for it on fourth-down with fake punt when his team needed a jolt, he won the penalty battle on the road, and the team has clearly not quit on him, a huge feather in the coaches cap.