The San Diego Chargers came into Thursday night without many believing in them. The Chargers had put up points and had leads a lot of the time, but the issue with them was holding on to leads. They have found a way all season long to lose leads. And it is because of that, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was heading into this game with a scalding hot seat. But after this game, he should be able to breathe a little easier, if only for a day or two. The Chargers got out to their usual lead early. But this time, they were able to hang on and keep the Denver Broncos at bay, taking home the victory 21-13. The Chargers win helped the Oakland Raiders now take over the number one spot in the AFC West while the Broncos have now lost two in a row. What once seemed like a team that was moving forward nicely now seems like a team that is trying to keep it together. But what has gone so wrong for them the last two games?
There were questions going into the season in regards to the Broncos offense. Plenty were interested to see how second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian would take to the starting job. Well, he has gotten better as the season has gone on. But what has not been good this season is the running game for the Broncos. And in this game, it caught up to them. CJ Anderson, Denver's starting running back, has had only had one game this season where he has averaged over four yards per carry. And this season, the Broncos have been able to get past their inability to run the football well because of their passing game and their defense shutting the opponent down. But in the last few games, the passing game and the defense have not been there to cover up the running game at all. The bigger issue here is not the guy running the football but the guys up front blocking. The Broncos have not got the kind of results they thought they would have gotten up front due to injuries and underperformance of a few players. And if they are not able to get those things figured out, then they could have even more issues going forward. The running game is a staple of Denver's offense under Gary Kubiak and if it is not effective, then offense will be hard to sustain over time.
But the offense is not the only side of the ball having issues in this two-game losing streak. The Denver defense was impenetrable during the first four games and looked to be picking up where they left off last season. Well, the last two games have shown us that the Broncos are human after all. In the first game against the Falcons, Atlanta attacked them by using running back Tevin Coleman in the seams deep down the field. And in the game against the Chargers, San Diego used their rookie tight end, Hunter Henry, to threaten the Chargers are the short to intermediate level. Both things show us that outside of coverage by their excellent corners, the Broncos are susceptible to coverage busts by their safeties and linebackers. In most of these situations, Henry and Coleman were open and it was a pretty easy read for the quarterbacks each time. The Broncos have had the pass rush to cover up for those misses in coverage and now that they are not getting that consistent pressure, then there lies the issue. Wade Phillips is an excellent coordinator, but he needs to make some adjustments there. Either he needs to make sure his coverages are tighter from his back seven or he needs to make sure to find more ways to bring pressure. Either way, the Broncos are getting beat in the secondary by teams that are able to handle their pressure up front. And that could be a bigger issue going forward for them.
The Broncos are still a 4-2 football team at this point and there is no need to panic. But if they are going to be successful and make the playoffs, then they need to clean up a few things, mainly the coverages defensively and the running game. If they are able to get healthy within their offensive line, then they could get better running the football. But defensively, they have some adjustments to make and that has to happen soon. The good thing is they have ten games left to make their adjustments and get back in stride again. Will they do so or not is totally up to them. It bears watching to see what happens next for Denver because they are not exactly looking outstanding right now.