The Broncos stormed back to make things interesting, but ultimately fell short to the Chargers in their last road game of 2020. Los Angeles gave Denver their 10th loss of the season after a 19-16 game.
This game felt like the Broncos season wrapped into one afternoon. The Broncos had their chances to score early in the game, but mental lapses left points on the board. We saw an early Drew Lock interception, but then he rebounded with some nice plays afterwards. We saw an inability to score in the redzone, and a Denver defense that thrives in the redzone. We saw key players missing time due to injuries. We saw a late push come up just short at the end.
It truly felt like there was a little bit of everything that made 2020 one of the weirdest Bronco seasons on record. Overall, the Broncos inability to capitalize was the biggest issue in this game. While this team continues to show effort and toughness, they once again had a “we were this close loss”.
In another close loss, let’s jump into my ten takeaways.
Lock: Consistently Inconsistent:
Drew Lock is a puzzling player right now. One play he’ll deliver a strike that has you fantasizing about what the future holds. Then, on the next play he’ll force the issue and create a turnover. His back and forth play has arguably been one of his most consistent attributes this season. This game was no different. Lock was able to orchestrate a 13-point fourth quarter comeback to tie the game, but the Broncos also had zero points at halftime, and he forced another redzone interception. It seems like we are preaching the same thing with Lock every week. If he can manage to clean up the sloppiness and eliminate turnovers, then he and the Broncos will be successful. Lock has one more game to prove that he’s deserving of the starting QB position in 2021. If he has another typical Lock game, then fire up the rumor mill because it’s going to be an interesting offseason.
Vic Fangio Staying for 2021:
While Lock has one final audition for 2021, we now know that Head Coach Vic Fangio will be back next season. For the first time since John Fox, the Broncos will have the same head coach for three straight seasons. That’s hard to believe. While Fangio has had some less-than-stellar moments, I do think this is the right decision. His defense has proven to be a force even without some of their best players. His coaching staff is loaded with a ton of support. He’s had to endure a crazy season that featured no offseason, countless injuries, a QB-less game, and no bye week. I also believe that the players all respect Fangio and have been playing hard for him down the stretch. Let’s see if he can turn things around next year with a full offseason and some key pieces returning.
Forgettable Game for Jerry Jeudy:
It felt like this was the first game that the Broncos force fed rookie WR Jerry Jeudy the ball. Unfortunately, that only resulted in the worst game of Jeudy’s young career. While Jeudy still finished with six receptions for 61 yards, he could have had a career game after being targeted 15 times. The first round pick was credited with five drops, including a potential touchdown, on Sunday. He now leads all rookies WRs with 12 drops this season. The biggest, and only real, knock on him coming out of college was that he had some concentration issues, which have been very apparent this season. He still has a ton of talent and will be a good player, but he needs to clean things up mentally.
Inability to Finish Offensively:
The offense tallied 396 total yards, their fourth most this season, but failed to capitalize after crossing midfield. They made their way into Chargers territory seven times but only had one touchdown to show for their efforts. It seemed as though every drive ended poorly. Whether it was a missed field goal, a costly sack, dropped pass, or lazy penalty the Broncos froze in Chargers territory. This team is not good enough to leave points on the board. Heck, just the interception and missed field goal is an automatic six point swing. While the defense boasts one of the best redzone defenses, the offense fails to convert when it matters most. Obviously, this will need to be cleaned up in 2021.
McManus a Mixed Bag in Return:
Brandon McManus was forced to miss last week’s game due to COVID protocols after being deemed a close contact. His absence was felt. This week, his return was a mixed bag. The struggles came early for McManus as he missed his first field goal, which ended up being a 32-yard kick after an offsides penalty on a missed kick from 42. However, McManus was able to rebound and connect from 30, 50, and 52 yards out. The 52-yard field goal was also the equalizer with just under three minutes to play. Unfortunately, the first miss proved to be the difference maker in a 19-16 game.
Melvin Gordon Capitalizes:
Leading up the game, the Broncos ended Phillip Lindsay’s 2020 season by placing him on the IR. That left Melvin Gordon as the undisputed No. 1 RB against his former team on Sunday. Gordon took advantage and had a strong game. The former Pro Bowl RB finished with 79 rushing yards on 16 carries for a 4.9 average. Beyond the looming suspension for his DUI, Gordon has shown his worth over the last few weeks. I feel like we kind of missed out on having the touted duo of Gordon and Lindsay this year as they never seemed to be healthy at the same time. Hopefully, the Broncos resign Lindsay, and we get to see more of what this pairing can truly accomplish in 2021.
Playing For Draft Position:
At this point in the season, losses almost seem better to me. I obviously want wins and don’t want to endorse a losing culture, but we might as well stock up on talent. Right now the Broncos have the 10th overall pick, but another loss could move them up. Ideally, the Broncos can still show growth and lose close as they improve their draft position. Let’s just forget this injury riddled season and start gearing towards 2021. Adding a top 10 talent alongside all of the pieces that will return from injury next season is pretty enticing, or at least my Broncos bias believes so.
Two Broncos Going Bowling:
There was some good news leading up to this game. Pro Bowl rosters were recently announced, and two Bronco defenders made the cut this season. Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons will both represent Denver for the first time in their careers. Chubb was named a starter at OLB, while Simmons is a reserve safety. Both were certainly deserving after being anchors for the defense all season long. Chubb tallied 7.5 sacks, although he missed Sunday’s game, and Simmons collected four interceptions, tying his career best. Tackle Garrett Bolles didn’t quite make the cut after his breakout season, but it does seem to take at least one “prove-it” season before the honor – just ask Simmons who was snubbed last season.
Congratulations Shelby Harris!:
Arguably the coolest storyline from Sunday had very little to do with the game. Defensive tackle Shelby Harris wanted this to be the quickest game in Broncos history. Back in Denver, his wife was in labor with their fourth child. Harris even tweeted “Let’s hurry this game up gotta make it home for the birth of my son!” just prior to kickoff. The Broncos arranged for a private plane to take Harris back to Denver as soon as possible. Fangio even noted that they were prepared to play without him if needed. Even with all of this, Harris played another solid game. He finished with four tackles, one QB hit, and two patented pass deflections. It was just another awesome game and moment for one of my favorite Broncos. I hope the Broncos pay him and he retires in Orange and Blue one day.
Road Ahead: Goodbye 2020:
The Broncos have one last game to make their mark in this weird season. They’ll host the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday before cleaning out their lockers. The Raiders have had quite the collapse this season. Once sitting at 6-3, the now 7-8 team has lost five of their last six to fall out of the playoff picture. Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs are still dangerous, but this team has seemed to lost their fight. Denver, also eliminated, is trying to end 2020 on a positive note with a win over the rival Raiders, similar to how they ended 2019. In my eyes, this game is all about Lock. I don’t even need to see Denver run the ball. I just want to see Lock and if anything has changed over the last few weeks. I’m willing to be patient with the young QB, but I need to see improvement before handing him the keys in 2021.
As we near the end of this season, let me know what worked and what didn’t work from my game reviews this season. I appreciate everyone that followed along with me this season and am looking forward to 2021!