That said, while everyone said the Chargers could win nobody expected it.
Yet they went out and took care of business, beating the Broncos on their field 27-20.
Here’s what we learned last night.
- It’s hard to say there’s a specific blueprint for beating Denver because “keep the offense off the field” and “play aggressive defense” could work for most teams. Still, the Chargers were content to grind the clock, especially late in the game. They could have kept the pedal to the floor and tried to pile the points on, but didn’t. Most surprisingly, they punted on the Bronco’s 39-yard line when they had mere inches to go. It worked out, but that sort of passivity of play calling can be dodgy in the playoffs. But Thursday night they won time of possession and it made a big difference.
- That said, you have to look long and hard at the Broncos defense which pressured Rivers a little bit but only hit him twice. They also couldn’t even slow Ryan Mathews down. Yes, Manning had an off night (for him) but the defense also struggled when you didn’t expect it to. If you can’t get past the Chargers offensive line, it’s time to take a hard look at what is going on.
- Keenan Allen is as good as we thought. Maybe better. The touchdown where he leaped over one guy and trucked another should cement his Offensive Rookie of the Year award. There are several offensive rookies worthy of consideration (Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, Gio Bernard should all be in the conversation along with others) but Allen is likely to get my vote when the PFWA has its vote later.
Keenan Allen on pace for 72-1064-8. Would be most rec yards by rookie WR since Michael Clayton (’04). > AJ Green, Julio, Marques Colston.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) December 13, 2013
- What Mike McCoy has done in San Diego is impressive and should tell you how bad things were under Norv Turner and AJ Smith. And it puts the lie to the myth that McCoy was only successful in Denver because everyone is successful with Manning. Remember, this is a guy who shaped offenses for three very disparate quarterbacks—Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Manning. Along with Marc Trestman in Chicago and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, McCoy has had an incredible impact on his team’s offense.
- The Broncos still can win the division, but losing home field to the Patriots should worry them. Not because “Peyton Manning can’t play in the cold” but because it’s very tough to beat New England in New England during the playoffs. The upside is, with Rob Gronkowski down for the count, Tom Brady is once again down a big weapon. Still, if I’m the Broncos I want that home field. It’s a much better place to be than Gillette Stadium.
- I wasn’t ready to crown Manning as MVP before the game—though he was the one I was leaning towards—and I’m not calling him out of it. Still, it’s always been a season award so let’s finish the season, shall we? That said if we are talking “Not Peyton” I lean towards Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, not Tom Brady.
- The Broncos have two games they should win in the next two weeks (Oakland and Houston). The Patriots have Miami, Baltimore and Buffalo. Put Buffalo aside (though you never know). Both Miami and Baltimore are games they should win. But both teams have playoff hopes and will be more desperate than the Raiders or Texans. Home field is still there for the taking.
- San Diego has a winnable Oakland game and a very, very tough game against Kansas City, though at least it’s at home. They have a good shot at a Wild Card—the AFC is a mess so everyone does—but they will need help.
What did you see last night? Give me your thoughts down in the comments.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter..