Monday, November 20, 2006

big takeaway from the big game last night

I'm writing this on the morning following the Chargers' big 35-27 victory over Denver IN Denver.

I'm writing this in mourning over a season that held so much potential.

There are a lot of things to say about last night's game. Heck, just writing about the strength of the Chargers could take two entire articles. . .but I don't have that kind of time.

So I'll boil it down, from a perspective that I feel I know best:

What I saw last night was proof that this year's Denver defense just isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, the difference between this year's defense and the units from 2003 and 2004 is negligible.

28 points at home in the second half? I don't care about short fields or any of that nonsense, that just isn't done to a good unit.

Once again, we watched a front 4 who can't get pressure on the quarterback without blitzes. Once again, that lack of pressure turned in to decent chunks of yardage gains for the opposition against a zone defense.

Best defense in the NFL? Hardly. In the last month Denver has allowed 31 points and 35 points at home against playoff-caliber AFC teams. They "escaped" with only 20 points scored against them in a game where the opponent's offense literally moved the ball at will.

Not very encouraging. And the thing is, I'm not the only one down on them.

Coach Shanahan is, too.

Last night, in the 4th quarter, Coach Super-Genius had a critical decision to make. The situation: 4th and 4, with the ball inside Bronco territory, under 4 minutes to go and the B-men down 1, one timeout left.

The announcers pegged the symbolism clearly: if Shanahan trusts his defense, he will punt the ball. If he doesn't, he will go for it.

Denver went for it. Denver did not get it.

And the thing is, if I was Shanahan, I would've done the exact same thing. As inconsistent as the Denver offense has been this year, I KNEW that the Denver defense wasn't going to do the job. Choosing the Denver D was choosing defeat by submission; at least going with the offense in that situation gave the team the maximum chance to win.

THE UPSHOT of all this: I mention earlier the teams of 2003 and 2004, which were decent teams that made the playoffs, only to get spanked by Indianapolis in the first game of the playoffs.

This year's team is the same. The Broncos will probably end up 10-6 (with losses to the Chiefs, Chargers and Bengals--yes, to the Bengals at home!) on the way in. I think that record will put them in the playoffs. (The competition for the wildcard spots features some teams with some difficult schedules ahead) Thankfully, I don't think it will be the Colts who are given a chance to have a perfectly-rated quarterback and a 120 yd/2 TD running back against Denver in the wildcard round--but somebody is going to get that chance.

NOW I'm not saying that Denver will lose that game, or any other playoff game (unless they face the Colts, that is--that would be a done deal). I'm simply saying that Denver's defense will be gashed by every playoff-level offense. It will be up to our offense to carry our hopes for advancement.

And most weeks of the year, if I was an opposing coach, I'd be very happy to put Denver in just that situation.


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