Week 2 Game Recap: San Diego Chargers 17, Denver Broncos 20
What you need to know
The Chargers started the game badly, going three and out on their first possession. LaDainian Tomlinson was only used as a decoy on the opening drive as Brees twice faked a hand off to him. The Chargersí second drive was much more successful with Antonio Gates and Tomlinson both heavily involved. Gates had two first downs on the drive before Tomlinson ran right for a 16 yard touchdown to end an 80 yard drive.
The Chargersí passing game looked very efficient early in the game with Brees having plenty of time to seek out his targets. Keenan McCardell had four catches in the game, all in the first half, making two key first down receptions. He faded in the second half and was not a factor despite being targeted in the red zone on two occasions. Antonio Gates showed few signs of rust, and was an important part of the passing game with eight catches for 80 yards and five first down receptions. He had an outstanding 24 yard catch when Brees threw into coverage.
LaDainian Tomlinson was a big factor in the first half, scoring touchdowns of 16 yards and 4 yards. He was not a factor in the second half and gained only 11 yards as the Broncos concentrated on stopping the run. Darren Sproles and Michael Turner each had a carry but Tomlinson was the main ball carrier with 19 attempts for the second consecutive week. It was interesting that the Chargers again chose not to utilize Tomlinson in the passing game and he ended the game without a reception on just one target.
It was a mixed day on defense for the Chargers. They could not pressure Jake Plummer on the opening drive but came up with a big play near the goal line as Randall Godfrey caused Mike Anderson to fumble the ball and Jamal Williams recovered to prevent Denver from scoring. DeQuincy Scott sacked Plummer on the Broncosí second drive, forcing them to settle for a field goal. Steve Foley eluded Matt Lepsis to sack Plummer for a five yard loss, effectively ending the drive as Denver failed to convert a third and long opportunity. Terrence Kiel had a big sack in the second half that took the Broncos out of field goal range. Bhawoh Jue intercepted Plummer on a bizarre deflection from a helmet at the line of scrimmage.
The Broncos looked very good on the opening drive, moving smoothly down the field. Plummerís throws were accurate, enabling Rod Smith and Charlie Adams to each gain a first down. Plummer then found Smith for eight yards and 20 yards to move into the red zone. The drive ended on a Mike Anderson fumble and the Broncos appeared to lose their momentum.
The Broncosí passing game looked good at times, but Plummer was pressured more in the second half and struggled to maintain his effectiveness. Rod Smith was the focus of the passing game, especially on third down, but Ashley Lelie rebounded well after his poor showing in the opening game and finished with only one fewer targets than Smith. Lelie was targeted on a long pass early in the game but was overthrown by Plummer. Jeb Putzier was only targeted four times, gaining one first down on his only reception. Putzierís contribution would have been a lot bigger had he not had a 36 yard touchdown negated by George Fosterís personal foul.
Mike Shanahan is a coach that tends to favor a featured back over a committee, but the Denver running game saw contributions from three players against the Chargers. Mike Anderson saw the bulk of the carries with 15, but he was replaced at the goal line by Kyle Johnson later in the game after his fumble on the opening drive. On the Broncosí final scoring drive it was Ron Dayne that got the call, running eight times for 44 yards including a crucial conversion on fourth down. Obviously, coach Shanahan felt confident enough in Dayne to give him the ball on fourth down at the end of the game. Tatum Bell was active but did not see any carries. He appeared shaken up after covering a kick on special teams.
Denverís defense registered four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble which they recovered. Al Wilson was the leader of the defense with 10 solo tackles. He was largely responsible for limiting LaDainian Tomlinsonís effectiveness in the second half. Darrent Williams did some good things in the game but not all of them will show up in the final statistics. He returned a punt to the Chargersí 39 yard line and the Broncos recovered when he fumbled to set up a first down on the 37 yard line. In a bazaar play, Williams returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown but the play was negated as several of the Broncosí players ran on to the field to celebrate before the play was over. In the fourth quarter, Williams intercepted Brees at the Broncosí two yard line before the play was overturned as he did not have control before stepping out of bounds.
What you ought to know
After going three and out on their opening drive, Drew Brees engineered drives of 80 yards and 83 yards that both ended in touchdown runs by LaDainian Tomlinson. Brees was given time to throw in the first half but saw more pressure from the Broncos in the second half. Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates saw the vast majority of targets from Brees, particularly on third down plays. Brees was sacked four times, fumbling on a hit from Ian Gold. The opening play of the second half was a poorly thrown pass from Brees that was intercepted by Champ Bailey and returned for a touchdown. Brees was also picked in the fourth quarter but the play was overturned after the Chargers challenged the call.
Tomlinson again had under 20 carries for the Chargers. He was effective early in the game, running for 42 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The second half saw the Broncos pay closer attention to Tomlinson and he gained just 11 yards and was held scoreless. It was a little surprising that the Chargers did not try to utilize Tomlinson in the passing game. He was targeted once and appeared to lose concentration, dropping what should have been an easy catch. He still has not caught a pass this season.
Sproles had one carry in the game, gaining 12 yards. He was targeted once in the passing game and had a five yard reception. Sproles was used on special teams, returning three kickoffs and a punt.
Turner was used on one play early in the game to spell Tomlinson, gaining six yards.
McCardell enjoyed a successful first half, catching four passes for 54 yards. Two of the receptions gave the Chargers a first down, including a 20 yard catch on third down. He had another third down conversion ruled out when he was called for offensive pass interference. McCardell did not have any catches in the second half. Brees overthrew him in the end zone on one second half play and McCardell was also the target on a Brees interception that ended up being overturned on a challenge.
Eric Parker was targeted three times in the game and caught each pass, two of which were for a first down. The first was a big gain to the Broncosí four yard line after he was left wide open. The remaining two catches were in the fourth quarter.
Brees did not throw to Reche Caldwell until the fourth quarter. The pass fell incomplete.
It was hard to believe that Antonio Gates had missed three games due to suspension as he was very effective and a key part of the Chargersí passing game. Gates was targeted eight times, catching six balls for 80 yards. Five of the catches were for a first down and it seemed that Brees looked to Gates first on most of the third down plays. Gates came through in the clutch to bring in a 24 yard reception under heavy pressure from Al Wilson, leading to the Chargersí final score of the game.
Kaeding made all of his kicks in this game, converting a 42 yard field goal and two extra point attempts.
Donnie Edwards led the team with seven solo tackles and an assist. The Broncos tried to establish the run but were held under 100 net yards rushing on the day at an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Randall Godfrey forced an Anderson fumble during the opening drive, stopping Denver at the two yard line. The Chargers were unable to stop Ron Dayne on the Broncosí final drive of the game, allowing a fourth down conversion which led to the winning field goal.
The Chargersí pass defense could not create any pressure on Jake Plummer during the Broncosí first possession, but did much better as the game wore on. Plummer threw 37 times but the Broncos were held to 233 net passing yards. Plummer was sacked three times in the game. Jacques Cesaire injured his elbow early on but returned in the second half. DeQuincy Scott replaced Cesaire and got the first sack to force the Broncos to settle for a field goal on their second drive. Steve Foley sacked Plummer for a five yard loss on the Broncosí third drive, leaving them a third and long which they failed to convert. Foley showed good speed to beat Matt Lepsis on the play. Terrence Kiel tackled Plummer for a nine yard loss on the Chargersí final sack of the day. Bhawoh Jue intercepted a pass that was deflected off a helmet at the line of scrimmage.
|QB Jake Plummer, Pass: 23 - 37 - 248 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0|
Plummer moved the ball well on the Broncosí opening drive, finding Rod Smith for 15 yards on the first play of the game and completing six of his first seven passes for 66 yards. Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie were the most heavily targeted players for the Broncos, with Smith being the preferred target on third down. Plummer fumbled a snap when in shotgun formation but the ball was recovered by Cooper Carlisle for the Broncos. Plummerís numbers would have looked better had a 36 yard touchdown pass to Jeb Putzier not been negated by a personal foul committed by George Foster. Plummer looked deep for Ashley Lelie early in the game but overthrew the pass. Perhaps the strangest play of the game came when Plummer hit DeQuincy Scottís helmet at the line of scrimmage, causing the pass to be picked off by Bhawoh Jue.
After injuring his ribs in the opening game, Anderson looked to be back at full speed in this game. He was the main ball carrier and was given the carries on the opening drive before fumbling at the Chargersí two yard line. Anderson did not have any big gains running the football but he ran for three first downs. Plummer found Anderson on a 26 yard reception that took the Broncos to the Chargersí three yard line but Kyle Johnson was given the carry on the next play. Anderson played throughout the entire game. He carried the ball on the third play of the Broncosí final drive but gave way to Ron Dayne who finished out the game.
The Broncosí final drive was focused around Ron Dayne. He gained 43 yards on seven carries during the drive, including a key fourth down conversion which enabled Jason Elam to attempt the winning field goal. Denver tried to draw the Chargers offside on the fourth down conversion and then showed faith in Dayne by remaining on the field and giving him the ball.
Johnson only had one carry in the game, but it was for the Broncosí only offensive touchdown. Whether Shanahan lost faith in Anderson after his fumble is unclear because Johnsonís score came immediately after a 26 yard gain by Anderson and he may just have been spelling him.
Bell was active in this game but did not see any carries. He appeared to be shaken up when covering a kick on special teams.
Rod Smith caught a 15 yard pass on the opening play for the Broncos and appeared to be Plummerís first thought on third down plays. Smith played well, and was the leading receiver on the day with eight catches for 83 yards. Smith gained five first downs but he did drop a ball on third and eight that would have given the Broncos another first down.
After a poor game in the opening week, Lelie rebounded well and caught six passes. He was targeted deep on a long pass which was badly overthrown. He gained three first downs on the day.
Adams caught three of the balls thrown his way, gaining two first downs.
Watts made the most of his one target, catching a 10 yard pass for a first down.
Alexander was targeted once in the game and made a five yard catch.
Putzier was unlucky in this game as he made a good effort to get into the end zone on a 36 yard reception, only to see the play negated due to a personal foul by George Foster. Putzier caught one other pass for 16 yards and a first down.
Elam had a mixed day. He started by kicking a 45 yard field goal for the opening score of the game. He then missed a 53 yard attempt wide left, and missed another 53 yard attempt wide right by about a foot. Elam has never missed three field goals in a game. The Broncos could have allowed him to try a 51 yard attempt on the final drive of the game but gave the ball to Ron Dayne on fourth down. Elam was finally called upon to kick the winning field goal from 41 yards and he redeemed himself by splitting the uprights. He converted both of his extra point attempts.
Al Wilson led the Broncos with ten solo tackles and he was largely responsible for restricting LaDainian Tomlinson to 52 yards. John Lynch was also used at the line of scrimmage on some plays and ended with six solo tackles and an assist. The Chargersí running game started well with two touchdowns but the Broncos stifled them for the rest of the day and held them to 79 net rushing yards at an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Denverís linebackers showed good speed in this game.
The Broncosí pass defense allowed 213 net passing yards on the day. They sacked Drew Brees four times. Ian Goldís sack resulted in a fumble which was recovered by Courtney Brown for the Broncos. The tackle appeared high and the Broncos quickly snapped the ball to avoid a possible review. Courtney Brown had a sack of his own, and Demetrin Veal and John Lynch sacked Brees for losses of 14 yards and 13 yards respectively. One of the biggest plays of the game came on the Chargersí first play of the second half when Brees was intercepted by Champ Bailey for a 25 yard touchdown. Lynch briefly left the game when he appeared to suffer leg cramps, but he quickly returned.