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Broncos Game Grades: Three-phase win

Andre Simone Avatar
December 3, 2019

Throughout the entire 2019-20 season, DNVR 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-by-game basis.

This time, it was the Broncos who won with a last-second field goal as a result of a debatable flag.

After re-watching and charting every play of Denver’s 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, here’s who stood out good, bad and beyond.

Standouts from the game

Derek Wolfe: A-

Wolfe saw a fair amount of double teams against the run and couldn’t always hold his ground, but his ability to create pressure was on another level. His big 3rd-and-9 sack taking the Bolts out of field goal position was the highlight, but he had yet another sack and a third QB hit, splitting double teams and clamping down on Phillip Rivers.

Courtland Sutton: A+

Sutton was dominant, with another one of his incredible acrobatic grabs on his 26-yard touchdown. He did a fine job of getting open for TD number two. He capped the day off by forcing the game-winning pass interference call, the ultimate sign of respect from opposing defenders.

Alexander Johnson: A

Questionable to even play, Johnson was outstanding, flying downhill to stuff gaps and executing a variety of tough tackles in the open field. He was otherworldly hunting Austin Ekeler down to the flats forcing a tackle for a loss in the closing minutes. He added another TFL and a QB hurry.

He took a bad angle on one play but was otherwise he was superb while playing all 66 defensive snaps.

Drew Lock: B

Lock would’ve had a much more modest game if it wasn’t for his high-end play on third down, converting 7-of-13 opportunities—it should’ve been 8-of-13 if not for Hamilton’s dropand really doing his best work when it mattered most.

His game was defined by his work off awkward footing as he was both inaccurate at times, and able to create positive plays when he had nothing to work with. Finishing the day with zero sacks was quite impressive.

Ultimately, Lock made his shots downfield to Sutton count with the opening touchdown and the DPI to end the game.

There are still lots of areas to improve in, but Lock played a big part in Denver’s win.

Defense

Mike Purcell: B

Purcell played stout run defense, creating penetration (two TFLs) and, at times, devouring double teams. He was a big reason why the Chargers run game wasn’t very effective when they inserted a sixth offensive lineman.

Shelby Harris: C-

Coming in hobbled, Harris had a run stuff and little else outside of his lone splash play. Adam Gotsis and Dre’Mont Jones filled in with Jones having the greatest impact with his first-half interception and a couple of hurries in nickel. All three struggled to hold their ground against the Chargers’ run game.

Malik Reed: B

Reed was banged up during the game but still did a nice job with two hurries and a run stuff on 63 percent of the defensive snaps.

Todd Davis: B-

Davis struggled in coverage on the much quicker Ekeler, giving up four receptions for 55 yards on five targets. Against the run, he played a gritty game, making tough tackles and holding on at all costs, all while stuffing gaps and always finding himself in the right spot.

Jeremiah Attaochu: B-

Attaochu missed part of the game with an injury and wasn’t as effective rushing the passer, though he did produce a QB hit and drew a holding flag on Russell Okung. He did do a good job setting the edge with two-run stuffs while playing 60 percent of the snaps.

Chris Harris Jr.: D

Rivers didn’t respect Harris much, targeting him on key downs and eventually getting him on a 36-yard bomb where the veteran corner bit on a run fake and just lost his rival, Keenan Allen.

No. 25 did a good job tackling and helping against the run but seemed maybe too focused on that aspect as he allowed 68 receiving yards on five receptions.

Justin Simmons: C

Simmons was terrific, making some outstanding plays coming down to tackle against the run and playing sticky coverage over the middle of the field.

Problem is, he also ran into Isaac Yiadom, leaving Mike Williams wide open for a 52-yard completion.

Kareem Jackson: A-

Jackson was flying all over the field and made some nice plays on outside runs and throws to the flats. His timely tackling in space was key throughout.

Isaac Yiadom: B-

Yiadom had a couple tough breaks like Simmons running into him and Williams making an outstanding catch on 4th-and-11 with No. 26 draped all over him in perfect coverage. He shut things down the rest of the game, allowing just two receptions for 19 yards.

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Justin Hollins was very active, hustling to get after the passer with a hurry and drawing a key holding flag on Okung, who couldn’t handle his agility. Hollins was also strong defending the run, all while playing 69 percent of the defensives snaps.

Will Parks played a big role in this game as a nickel defender who saw the field 79 percent of the defensive snaps. He was flawless in coverage and had a key early sack.

Offense

Garett Bolles: B-

It wasn’t always pretty and even sloppy at times, but Bolles had to battle with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa all day long and got the job done. To his credit, he outplayed Okung and got back to moving his feet while staying penalty-free.

His run blocking wasn’t superb, and he did allow a tough pressure, but considering the test, he passed.

Dalton Risner: B

Risner did a great job on pull blocks early to open up big holes for the run, and while he did allow a run stop, he was very efficient in all phases of the game.

Connor McGovern: C+

McGovern struggled a bit in the second half getting beat on a blitz up the middle, getting overpowered on a run stop and allowing a QB hurry resulting in a three-and-out. He did more good than bad but was far from flawless.

Ron Leary: B-

Leary didn’t look the smoothest and was beat for a run stop early before exiting the game in the final quarter with a concussion. Austin Schlottmann replaced him and held on tight to close the game out.

Elijah Wilkinson: B-

Wilkinson was destructive blocking at the second level and creating constant push for the run in the first half. As the offense stalled, he began to allow pressure but played a solid game considering the tough test at hand.

Noah Fant: D

Fant struggled mightily adjusting to the ball mid-air, hauling in only one of three targets. His blocking was far from perfect as well.

Tim Patrick: D

Patrick had a laser throw go through his hands and struggled to get open most of the game with zero receptions on two targets.

Royce Freeman: D+

Freeman had some tough physical runs but very minimal impact.

Phillip Lindsay: B+

Lindsay’s stat line is deceiving as his impact was much greater than the 58-rushing yards he had on the day. He was on fire on the opening scoring drive making quick cuts and electric moves to break tackles, none more so than when he bounced off Bosa, who seemingly had him dead to rights for a loss only for Lindsay to pull a 12-yard run out of nowhere. His vision also stood out.

All his performance was missing was one big run.

Other noteworthy offensive performances

DaeSean Hamilton held on to a couple of really tough grabs getting hit immediately after the catch but also dropped a wide-open slant on 3rd-and-12 that could’ve gone for a huge gain. The chemistry with Lock was there, but he let a big opportunities slip.

Jeff Heuerman was a safe outlet at receiver but also allowed two run stops, not what you want from your best blocking tight end.

Special Teams: A

As much as any unit, special teams played a key role in the Broncos victory as Brandon McManus nailed the game-winning field goal, Colby Wadman drew a roughing the kicker penalty to extend a drive and Josey Jewell’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt proved crucial.

Diontae Spencer even had a couple nice returns, you couldn’t ask for much more.

The only negative play was Devonte Booker‘s roughing the kicker penalty.

Coaching: B-

Vic Fangio’s defensive plan worked nicely as most of the moves he made were rewarded if not for a couple of fluky breakdowns in coverage.

Rich Scangarello’s second-half plan was far too conservative as he tried to protect his rookie quarterback, ultimately Lock overcame the play calling and pulled the victory out.

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