The Denver Broncos (1-0) defeated the Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) by a score of 24-21. Denver entered the fourth quarter with a three possession lead, but mental errors that were easily avoidable nearly lost them the game. It was a shaky win with plenty of positives and negatives to takeaway.
Let’s be clear, the Chargers are not the best team in the NFL or even the AFC West. They’re not as talented as the Raiders, not as well coached as the Chiefs and their secondary – albeit impressive – is inferior to the Broncos’, but the win serves as a good confidence boost for the team.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1) Siemian’s the man
It’s still up for debate as to just how well Trevor Siemian is going to be as the season progresses, but after his performance Monday night, he showed that he gives the Broncos the best chance to win and gives the offense the best opportunity to succeed. His numbers were, well, mediocre. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 219 yards to go along with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for another score. Siemian was uncharacteristically athletic, tucking-and-running often, but not when the option was uncalled for.
Overall, Siemian’s performance was impressive. He showed vital confidence throwing the ball and held a short memory after making poor throws. That said, as his confidence grows, so does his questionable decision making. One issue Siemian had coming out of Northwestern was that too often, he put too much trust into his arm, consistently throwing into tight spaces and coming out empty – or with an interception – on more than one occasion. This showed in Monday’s win.
There were numerous passes thrown into tight and double coverage that should have been deflected or even intercepted, but weren’t. Siemian does not have the best arm, and when he places too much confidence into his throwing abilities, he throws into tight coverages or passes when he should be taking a sack. A part of fixing these issues is maturity. The Broncos cannot afford for him to make these throws as the season progresses, as it will be easy for defenses to disguise coverages and trick an overconfident quarterback into throwing fatal passes.
Eventually, this came back to bite Siemian when he threw a fourth quarter interception on a play when he should have taken the sack. He had no hope of getting the pass off with defenders draped over him and intended receiver Bennie Fowler. The Broncos were up by 17 points and he had no business being that risky with the ball. Decisions like that are simply unacceptable going forward.
2) Let’s go Bolling, Dude
The offensive line’s performance as a whole left a lot to be desired, but their performance was a vast improvement over last year’s squad. Rookie Garrett Boles’ performance was the most impressive of the bunch. As expected from the late 1st rounder, he struggled matching up against Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, as did other linemen when facing Bosa. It will be a struggle for Bolles as he faces top-tier edge rushers like Khalil Mack and Justin Houston, but let’s not dwell on the future, but instead focus on the present.
Bolles’ most impressive play came in the third quarter. Siemian dumped a pass to Emmanuel Sanders running a hitch route. Sanders, looking for space, ran across field to the opposite side of the gridiron. Bolles’ instincts kicked in and went downfield with impact blocking allowing Sanders to gain crucial yardage. It wasn’t pretty for Bolles – on more than one instance he was given extra blocking help to take care of a edge rusher – but heads up plays like those go a long way in the NFL. Keep an eye out on his development, he could be just what the Broncos have been searching for since Ryan Clady.
3) Where were their Minds?
The Broncos nearly choked away a three possession lead in a hilarious, yet frustrating fashion. Mental mistakes on both sides of the ball, the aforementioned unwarranted pass by Siemian in the fourth and the Broncos’ pass interference penalty that set up the potential game-tying field goal just to name a few. The mental mishaps were prevalent during the final quarter. There isn’t much to analyze here. The Broncos simply need to mature here so that it doesn’t happen again. If they did this against New England, Oakland, Kansas City or Dallas, it would result in an embarrassing loss each time. It was a learning experience for a young team, but it is alarming to see.
Game Ball: Trevor Siemian, QB. 17-28, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. His stats aren’t eye popping, but leadership can’t be measured through a box score or mere numbers. He controlled the game and led multiple time consuming drives. Siemian has his fair share of critics and with good reason, but more performances like tonight’s will go a long way in proving his critics wrong. Shelby Harris deserves commendation as well for blocking a would-be game tying field goal.
James runs Burking Questions. A go-to sports blog for hot takes and analysis in the world of sports. He’s also the Metro editor for Metrosphere Magazine. Are you on Twitter? So is he! Give him a follow @BurkyJames