There simply are not enough game balls to go around.
The Denver Broncos are off to a 6-0 start after going on the road and defeating the San Diego Chargers 34-23 in a prime time matchup on Monday Night Football.
The Broncos made a huge statement with this win, putting on their most complete performance of the season so far in front of a national audience as they increased their lead in the AFC West to an outstanding 3.5 games.
Enough is enough of this “surprising” tag that has been attached to the Broncos, they are absolutely for real and are playing their best ball this decade.
Monday night’s game went as a lot of Bronco fans expected, as the Chargers were forced into a one-dimensional offense and their inability to run the ball really cost them in the end.
After a 92 yard San Diego drive resulted in a short Nate Kaeding field goal, Eddie Royal ignited some fireworks at Qualcomm Stadium. Royal took the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 7-3 lead.
That lead would be short lived as Philip Rivers and the Chargers drove the ball right back down the field again, finishing a 74 yard drive with a three yard touchdown pass from Rivers to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, putting the score at 10-7 in favor of the home team.
After a long 13 play drive ended in a Matt Prater field goal to start the scoring in the third quarter, the Broncos tied the game at 10 points apiece.
Following the field goal, the Broncos forced the Chargers into a three-and-out, and the Mike Scifres punt was taken 71 yards to the house by Eddie Royal, becoming the first player since Devin Hester in 2007 to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same game.
The Broncos, now nourishing a 17-10 lead, were able to stop the Chargers short of a touchdown on their next drive, and San Diego settled for another Nate Kaeding field goal, this one from 44 yards out.
Denver’s following drive was pitiful, and they were forced into a three-and-out. Bronco punter Brett Kern made the decision to punt the ball to Darren Sproles, which is never a great idea. Sproles took the punt all the way to the end zone, giving the Chargers huge momentum heading into halftime with a 20-17 lead.
Another Nate Kaeding field goal gave the Chargers a six point lead, but the Broncos answered right back.
Following the field goal, Kyle Orton hooked up with Tony Scheffler on a beautiful 19 yard touchdown pass that capped off a nine play, 77 yard drive to give the Broncos the lead for good.
Following an Elvis Dumervil forced fumble that was recovered by Vonnie Holliday, the Broncos had probably the shortest ten play drive in the league so far this year, going 36 yards in ten plays. That drive was capped off by a Matt Prater field goal to give the Broncos a 27-23 lead.
Late in the fourth, Orton and the Broncos were on their most important drive of the night and set up for their most important third down conversion of the night, a third-and-goal from five yards out. Kyle Orton dropped back to pass and hit Brandon Stokley right at the goal line for a touchdown that put the game out of reach for the San Diego Chargers.
Random Game Thoughts
In the intro, I said there were not enough game balls to go around, but having given it some thought, the game ball has to go to Eddie Royal. The Broncos may not have won without Royal’s two return touchdowns, and neither would my little brother in fantasy.
Royal’s special teams performance was absolutely phenomenal, and he set a Denver Broncos record for return yardage in a game with 230.
Now to those who also deserved a game ball.
Tony Scheffler had his best game as a professional in my opinion. I’m sure the stat line (Six catches, 101 yards, TD) are not the most staggering for his career, but he played extremely well and was the Broncos’ biggest difference maker offensively.
The offensive line was outstanding for the Broncos. The Chargers had one sack on the night, and it came as Larry English was being pancaked by Ryan Clady. The only suspect area for this unit was in the running game, where the Broncos were slow to get it going at times.
Denver’s third down defense was at its best on Monday night, holding the Chargers to only two conversions on 11 attempts on the night. The Broncos gave up a few screen passes in the first half, but in the end, their defense did exactly what I thought they would, and they put the heat on Philip Rivers.
Elvis Dumervil led the Denver defense tonight, recording two sacks and a forced fumble of Philip Rivers. As a unit, the Broncos had five sacks and were seemingly in Philip Rivers’ face the entire second half.
Switching back to the offensive side of the ball, how good has Kyle Orton been for the Broncos so far this season? After his performance tonight, he has thrown for 1,465 yards, nine touchdowns, one fluke pick, and he has a rating of 100.1.
Orton is truly playing MVP caliber football through six games this season, and is running Josh McDaniels’ offense better than anybody expected. His efficiency in the red zone and accuracy have been crucial to the Broncos’ success this season. Orton improved to 27-12 as a starting quarterback in this league, and many, including myself, feel he has played at a Pro Bowl level so far this season.
Clearly, this Denver Broncos coaching staff has this team in a good place. They didn’t listen to the nay-sayers prior to this season (so they claim), but they sure are shutting them up so far.
Mike Nolan has devised excellent defensive game-plans, and this Broncos team has allowed a league-best ten points in the second half of football games so far this year. Through six games, that is absolutely outstanding and the main reason the Broncos have been able to start this season unblemished.
Josh McDaniels has done a superb job of preparing his offensive game plan and planning to his player’s biggest strengths.
The Broncos are a very efficient team, and if they can continue to play ball like this, they are going to be tough to beat.
The main deficiency for the Broncos tonight was the running game, which actually was not as bad as I thought. They were still able to gain over 100 yards on the ground, but it seemed at times that they could go nowhere.
Correll Buckhalter was back for the first time in two weeks, and it appeared as though Knowshon Moreno was primed for a big game going up against a run defense that ranked 27th in the NFL heading into this matchup.
San Diego was able to bottle Moreno up for most of the game and hold him to just over 40 yards rushing.
The Broncos could not have scripted a better way to head into their bye week.
They are 6-0 for the first time since Elway lined up under center, and they have been quite a story thus far, and the most impressive part? They are doing it with defense, something nobody anticipated.
Now, the offense is starting to really click, and the Broncos are looking like a more complete team with every game they play.
Still, this team knows it has a lot to improve upon, and they have a lot of time to prepare for their road matchup with the Baltimore Ravens in week eight.
The Ravens, like the Chargers, have an explosive passing offense but an even more dangerous running game with Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and LeRon McClain.
Denver is sure to have its hands full, but for now, 6-0 feels great, and this team deserves every bit of it. Enjoy Broncos fans, your team has joined the NFL’s elite this season, even when nobody thought they could do it.