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Scouts Inc. Take Two: Broncos vs. Chargers

Discussion in 'American Football' started by O'reilly, Dec 8, 2006.

  1. O'reilly

    O'reilly Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    Earlier this week, our scouts filed their advance scouting report on this week's matchup between the Broncos and Chargers. Now they're back with a second look.

    • San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson was on a tear when these two teams met three weeks ago and that has not changed since. In the first meeting Tomlinson gashed the Denver defense on the ground and the passing game. He basically took over in the second half and Denver had no answers. Over the past six games, Tomlinson has 851 rushing yards, 224 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Tomlinson is the most patient runner in the game and he consistently rides FB Lorenzo Neal to daylight. On a lot of his recent big runs Tomlinson puts his off hand right into the back of Neal and kind of steers him to daylight.
    • Denver's defense has not been very sound during its three-game losing streak. DT Gerard Warren has not been the same player since suffering a toe injury. The Broncos have lost safeties Nick Ferguson and Sam Brandon, forcing John Lynch to have to do too much in the run game. Team leader and star MLB Al Wilson was carted off the field last week with a neck injury. It has not been determined if he will be cleared to return this week, but there has been a history of some stingers with Wilson, so they may err on the cautious side. Wilson would be replaced by backup MLB Nate Webster. Webster has some starting experience in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, but he will having trouble filling Wilson's shoes. Webster is a solid athlete and can run, but he is not nearly as instinctive and has been plagued by mental busts throughout his career when in the starting lineup.

    • Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan thought rookie QB Jay Cutler played "pretty good" in his first NFL start. He also has shouldered the blame for what the rest of the general public would call a "not very good" first start from Cutler. Shanahan said he had to much stuff in the game plan last week, and that is why Cutler did not play as well as he could have. Correct us if we are wrong, but we thought the whole point of playing Cutler was because they could open up the offense more. At least that is what Shanahan was telling his coaching staff and other people he is close to. If they have to cut down the playbook, then they probably should have stuck with Jake Plummer. Now they are going to go into San Diego with a scaled-back playbook vs. one of the best defenses in the NFL. That really does not sound like a great recipe for success.

    • Denver's run game will help take pressure off Cutler this week. Tatum Bell missed three of the last four games before returning the lineup in Week 13. Bell had 23 carries for 133 yards vs. Seattle. That was a much-needed boost for a run offense that was inconsistent without him. Bell did not play in the first meeting with San Diego, but Denver ran the ball fairly well, totaling 158 yards on 35 attempts. The San Diego front seven has had some issues with Denver's zone-blocking scheme and C Tom Nalen got the best of NT Jamal Williams in the first meeting. That will be key again this week.
    • One player San Diego will look to get involved early is TE Antonio Gates. Gates did not get one early look in the first meeting, but he came up big in the second half. Once he started getting into the flow and getting touches, it appeared to open up the rest of the offense.

    • Denver has had some serious injury issues at safety this season. In consecutive weeks the team lost Brandon and Ferguson. Denver originally tried backup Curome Cox at strong safety, but he struggled. In the past two weeks the team has used nickel corner Domonique Foxworth at the strong safety on early downs. Having him in the lineup this week at SS might not help as much vs. the run but it will help on early downs vs. the pass. San Diego likes to flex out Gates on early downs from base personnel because the opponent does not have its nickel sub package on the field. This gives the Chargers a serious advantage because Gates is being covered by a linebacker or safety. Foxworth, because of his corner cover skills, would be able to match up vs. the formation better than a linebacker or true safety.

    • Chargers QB Philip Rivers has struggled by his standards over the past two games, completing only 52 percent of his passes. A big reason for this has been injuries to the offensive line. Denver is not a high-percentage blitz team, but it will need to blitz more this week. The blitz disrupts the run game and will at least force Tomlinson to make the first move.
    • Denver has an outstanding corner in Champ Bailey, and a pretty good one on the other side in Darrent Williams. In Week 12, San Diego's receivers could not separate from the Raiders' corners. Oakland's DBs completely smothered the mediocre San Diego receiving corps. The Broncos need to take the same approach. They need to blitz and play man coverage behind. They will get hits on Rivers and force him to try to get the ball into tight windows vs. receivers who can't consistently separate.

    • San Diego OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips both have 10.5 sacks. The scary part is that Phillips has missed two games with a calf injury and Merriman four with a suspension. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme is giving opponents fits. Look for Phillips to throw every blitz package he has at Cutle.

    first meeting was an excellent game. Denver got out to the early lead, but San Diego was able to rally in the second half. The loss to San Diego was the first of three straight for Denver. The offense has struggled with both Plummer and Cutler, and the defense has struggled to come up with enough big plays.

    San Diego, on the other hand, has been on a roll. Even though Rivers has not played as well the past few weeks, Tomlinson has been just about unstoppable. Denver will likely be trying to stop him without the heart and soul of its defense (Wilson). These teams going in complete opposite directions right now. We like the Chargers in a game that likely will not even be close.

    Prediction: Chargers 30, Broncos 17

  2. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006

    Finishing the deal
    With wild card on line, Broncos know playing their cards right late is crucial

    By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
    December 9, 2006

    ENGLEWOOD - It's over.

    Darrent Williams admitted this week that immediately after polishing off his 31-yard interception return for a touchdown Nov. 19, it was the first notion that crossed his mind.

    The Broncos, after all, had grabbed a 17-point lead 5 minutes into the second half against the San Diego Chargers, the home crowd was roaring and momentum appeared firmly on their side.

    It was a done deal - just not how the cornerback envisioned.

    The Chargers roared back with four touchdowns to steal the critical AFC West matchup. And even now, it doesn't appear as if the defense has gotten over that, heading into the rematch Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium (2:15 p.m. MST, CBS 4).

    Second-half collapses in Kansas City and against Seattle have followed, and a season that seemed destined for the postseason has become a muddled mess wrought with wild-card-only scenarios at present.

    The past three opponents Denver has played have scored points on 11 of 18 possessions after halftime, a big reason the Broncos are in the midst of a season-changing, three-game losing streak.

    Talk about burying the lead . . .

    "It's the little things - tackling, missed assignments - that can turn things for your opponent," cornerback Champ Bailey said in explaining the recent downturn. "We can't win games like that, and we know it. We've got to stay focused for a whole 60 minutes, not 30 or 40."

    Whether it's focus, effort, execution or a combination of everything, the Broncos haven't won games with their second-half swoons and looked lost in doing so.

    In the past three weeks, after the half, opponents have completed 71.8 percent of passes, rushed for 5.0 yards per carry and converted half their third-down drives.

    It isn't totally on the defense. Denver's offense has managed only 27 second-half points during the skid and too often has been unable to sustain clock-killing drives. The special teams have had a nasty habit of allowing ill- timed long returns.

    But too many big plays against the Broncos have contributed heavily, too.

    Five of the six pass plays of 20- plus yards during the past three games have come in the final two quarters, as have seven of 12 rushes of 10 yards or more.

    "The vast majority of yards against us have been in the fourth quarter," defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "That's a fact. And our guys are busting our butts to prevent that from happening. I don't think it's conditioning. I believe that. When the heat gets on, you've got to make plays."

    Safety John Lynch recalled that he was glad Sunday when Denver held a 13-7 advantage going into the fourth quarter against the Seahawks, because, in terms of holding a lead, "When you're struggling, the only way to make it better is actually doing it."

    Instead, wide receiver Darrell Jackson had 27- and 33-yard catches as Seattle went on a 16-7 surge in the fourth quarter to pull out a victory. Different weekend, same story.

    "Everyone's culpable," Lynch said. "But I do know in this league you have to get to the passer to be effective, and particularly late in the game, that's when it starts paying dividends. And if you don't, that's when they start getting comfortable, because they kind of understand how you're attacking them, and that's been a big problem. But that's not where it stops. It's been a complete team thing."

    In the first meeting with San Diego (10-2), the Broncos had batted around first-year starter Philip Rivers fairly consistently with a return to their blitz-heavy scheme from last season. But after Rivers caught defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban in a mismatch with running back LaDainian Tomlinson on a 51-yard third- quarter touchdown, Denver backed off.

    "You've got to," Coyer said. "They nailed us."

    And Rivers, the league's leading fourth-quarter passer, did get comfortable in the pocket, hitting all four of his passes for 37 yards and a touchdown the rest of the way.

    Seeking answers for the nagging problem, defensive players have run extra wind sprints after practices on their own, in case conditioning has been a factor.

    But as Bailey pointed out, even if that is the case, it's up to individuals to do what's necessary to correct the problem.

    "Everybody's accountable," he said.

    There have been rumblings, beginning with wide receiver Rod Smith's postgame diatribe after the loss to the Chiefs on Thanksgiving night, that some players might not be pushing themselves to the brink sufficiently late in games. Williams seconded that notion recently, adding it's not a widespread problem.

    "It's a few guys," he said before the loss to Seattle. "I'm not going to say one or two. It can be contained. But when other guys see somebody playing around and stuff like that, some young-minded people tend to act the same way - 'He's acting like that, I can act like that, too.' "

    Coyer said self-examination starts with himself in terms of the recent second-half problems. Still, he isn't second-guessing his strategies.

    "Not really," he said. "I guess I have to. We pretty much stayed with our guys. You can second- guess anything."

    The root of the problem, in his view, carries more of a mental component. Bad plays have to be erased from the memory banks faster, particularly with the game on the line late.

    "They're executing their plan at a high rate," Coyer said of the Broncos' past three opponents. "And I think our guys understand that you have to get faster as the game goes on."

    Bailey said he's worried by the second-half performances the past three weeks but isn't bothered by them.

    "I always think the next week's going to be better," he said. "We just have to keep believing and working at what we do. If we don't do that . . . "

    His voice trailed off. But there's little doubt what was coming next had he finished the thought about his 7-5 team: It's over.

    Second-half blues

    The Broncos' statistics in the second halves of their past three games, all losses:

    Category Defense Offense

    Points 53 27

    Yards per half 202.3 125.3

    First downs per half 10.3 7.0

    Comp.-Att.-Int. 28-39-3 29-48-2 Comp. pct. 71.8 60.4

    Rush att.-yards 54-268 31-111 Rush avg. 5.0 3.6

    Converting third downs 10-20 9-22 Third-down pct. 50.0 40.9

    Passing yards per half 123.0 89.3

    Strive for five

    Jeff Legwold's keys for the Broncos in their game Sunday against San Diego:

    1 Mind your Ps and Qs with L.T. LaDainian Tomlinson is on course for history, and he's just too good not to make a play or four. But the Broncos can't miss tackles, overpursue and give Tomlinson any cheap ones, because the guy earns enough on his own.

    2 Stand tall. Nobody in the league has tossed opposing quarterbacks to the ground more than the Chargers have this season - a league-leading 44 sacks and counting. The Broncos have a rookie at quarterback in Jay Cutler and need him upright if he's going to be able to run the offense efficiently.

    3 Don't forget. Tomlinson has scored a remarkable 26 touchdowns this season, but the other Chargers have scored 20 touchdowns. By comparison, the Broncos have scored 23 touchdowns this year. Among San Diego's "other guys," tight end Antonio Gates, who has been a big factor during the past two games, has six touchdowns.

    4 Get there. Opposing quarterbacks are getting too comfortable against the Broncos defense, especially late in games. The Broncos have to find a way, either through effort or scheme, to get to Philip Rivers or this one could get ugly.

    5 Get loose. Yes, it's a business, and yes, it's about winning. But the Broncos have played tight at times this season and it's starting to show in the standings.
  3. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006

    Wilson 'ready to go' after spraining neck
    By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
    December 9, 2006

    ENGLEWOOD - After watching Broncos linebacker Al Wilson through three days of practice, coach Mike Shanahan said he had seen enough.

    Wilson, who suffered a sprained neck in a 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night, will be in the Broncos lineup in San Diego.

    "Al will start," Shanahan said. "He practiced, he looked good and he's ready to go."

    Wilson suffered the injury when he collided with teammate Gerard Warren while trying to recover a fumble. Wilson felt tingling in his shoulders and hands and briefly lost feeling in his arms.

    He was released from Sky Ridge Medical Center late Sunday after X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging exam proved negative. He took about half his usual plays Wednesday, and Shanahan said Wilson ramped things up Thursday before practicing fully Friday.

    Wilson said through the week he was just "taking it day by day."

    The only thing that would derail Wilson from starting against the Chargers would be a return of symptoms from the collision.

    If Wilson had to leave the game, the Broncos would use either

    Keith Burns or Nate Webster.

    Wilson, an eighth-year veteran, has missed only two games in his career. He said he hoped to get back on the field to try to help snap the team's three-game losing streak.

    "We need to dig down and get it done," Wilson said. "We just need to get it done."

    HIGH POWERED: L.T. on E.E. and it was b-a-d for the Broncos the previous time they faced the Chargers.

    The Broncos led 24-14 late in the third quarter Nov. 19 when, sending a blitz after quarterback Philip Rivers, defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban found himself in coverage on do-it-all running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

    The result was a short flip from Rivers to Tomlinson that Tomlinson turned into a 51-yard touchdown reception. The Chargers kept on scoring from that point and eventually won 35-27.

    "We didn't tackle very well, I think we gave up a big play and it hurt us," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "They got us there, that's the truth."

    Coyer said Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is "brilliant" and one of the best in the league at finding the matchup that exploits what a defense has done on a particular snap.

    This season, Cameron has been able to get Tomlinson the ball in enough ways that the running back has 26 touchdowns despite the fact defenses make him the first priority to stop. The Chargers are the league's highest-scoring team, with 377 points, and have scored at least 30 points six times.

    INJURY REPORT: Broncos kicker Jason Elam, who suffered a strained hamstring on a fake field-goal attempt Sunday, said he felt ready to kick against the Chargers but was unsure what his range would be.

    "I took some real, real easy swings on Wednesday, and then I tried to hit some extra points and step it up a little bit (through the week), and they would have been good from 40 and I wasn't swinging too hard," Elam said. "I'm pretty confident everything's going to be fine."

    Elam said he will try to balance finding what his limit would be in the pregame without making the injury any worse. Punter Paul Ernster probably would attempt any long field goals if there are some showers, as some forecasts predict.

    Tackle Adams Meadows (left hamstring) was the only player held out of some team drills Friday. George Foster would start at right tackle if Meadows isn't healthy enough to play Sunday.

    The Chargers added tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring) and wide receiver Eric Parker (knee) to their injury report Friday. Both were listed as probable.

    Defensive end Luis Castillo (ankle) and safety Marlon McCree (calf/knee) have missed recent games but are expected to play.

    ETC.: A win would be Schottenheimer's 202nd overall as a head coach and would move him past former Broncos coach Dan Reeves for sixth on the all-time list . . . The Broncos' road record this season (4-2) is better than their home mark (3-3).
  4. Trumpet_Man

    Trumpet_Man Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2006

    It's all L.T., all the time, for Chargers

    Associated Press
    National Football League News Wire

    SAN DIEGO -- LaDainian Tomlinson is taking care of everyone
    these days.

    With every long run and every dash into the end zone, Tomlinson
    adds to the impressive accomplishments that have made him the
    front-runner to become the first San Diego Chargers player to win
    the league MVP award.

    His incredible touchdown surge has carried him within three of
    owning the NFL's single-season record with a quarter of the season
    still to go, and pushed the Chargers to the cusp of only their
    second playoff berth in 11 seasons.

    And fantasy geeks must be as ecstatic as long-suffering Chargers
    fans, who already are assuming the Bolts will go to the Super Bowl.

    Yes, L.T. hears from fantasy geeks.

    "Usually telling me how many touchdowns I need, or yards,"
    Tomlinson said as the Chargers (10-2) prepared to host the slumping
    Denver Broncos (7-5) on Sunday. "Occasionally I'll get a 'Thank
    you' because I'm giving them 50 points a week or whatever that is.
    I don't know.

    "I just want to get them guys 50 points every week," he said
    with a laugh.

    Playing behind a motivated line and bruising fullback Lorenzo
    Neal, Tomlinson has 26 touchdowns, three shy of breaking the record
    of 28 set last year by league MVP Shaun Alexander of the Seattle

    Tomlinson's 26 touchdowns are more than 17 other teams have
    scored, and he's just 1.3 off the league's team average.

    "That's incredible to me," said Tomlinson, who's run for 23
    scores and caught three TD passes from Philip Rivers -- not to
    mention the two touchdown passes he's thrown. "It's been a
    phenomenal year. I may never have a year like this again."

    The single-season TD record has fallen three times since
    Tomlinson's boyhood idol, Emmitt Smith, scored 25 in 1995. At the
    rate he's scoring, Tomlinson could own the record by nightfall
    Sunday, then add on enough in the final three games to put it out
    of reach for some time.

    "We'll see what happens," he said. "Hopefully, if it does
    happen, then we have it stand for a while. That way these guys on
    the offensive line, and lo, we all have something to be proud of.
    When we're old, we can say, 'Hey, no one still has gotten it yet.'

    And to think, Tomlinson scored only three touchdowns through the
    first four games.

    "How many could he have had if we had started playing and
    rolling even from Week 1 or 2 as opposed to Week 7?" right tackle
    Shane Olivea said. "I mean, it's literally scary: 'How many do you
    think he can get?' "

    Olivea is also awed by Tomlinson humility.

    "He's what's right and what's good about the NFL," Olivea
    said. "He's someone the NFL can hang its hat on, say, 'You know
    what, you can do well and not have to cry for attention. You can
    let your play sort of speak for itself. You don't need to go out
    there and play OK, but run your mouth and let people think you're
    playing better than what you are.' "

    Tomlinson has scored 23 touchdowns in the last eight games. Four
    weeks ago, when the Broncos and Chargers were both 7-2, Tomlinson
    scored four times as the Chargers rallied from 17 points down to
    win 35-27 at Denver. The week before that, he had four TDs at
    Cincinnati as the Chargers made up a 21-point deficit to win 49-41.

    "His achievements, I've run out of superlatives," coach Marty
    Schottenheimer said. "It's what he does. I'm going to tell you
    what -- I stand on the sideline and I watch him like a fan. It's

    Tomlinson leads the NFL with 1,324 yards rushing and 1,794 yards
    from scrimmage. He extended his career-best streak of consecutive
    100-yard games to six with 178 yards and two scores in last
    Sunday's 24-21 win at Buffalo.

    "He's having one of those years where he's just looking
    unstoppable," Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams said. "We hope
    to just contain him now."

    The Chargers haven't swept this series since 1982. If they win
    Sunday, they'll be assured of at least a wild-card berth. If San
    Diego wins and the Kansas City Chiefs lose or tie at home against
    Baltimore, the Chargers will win the AFC West.

    Besides Tomlinson, the Broncos also have to contend with Rivers,
    who's having an impressive first season as the Chargers' starter.

    "That's the challenge they present," Broncos safety John Lynch
    said. "If you focus on L.T., they have Antonio Gates. Philip
    Rivers is playing at such a high level. And that offense, they've
    coordinated such a nice package and they have a lot of different

    Lynch is partially responsible for San Diego's shift from Drew
    Brees to Rivers at QB.

    In last year's season finale in San Diego, with the Chargers
    already knocked out of playoff contention, Brees dropped back to
    pass in his end zone and was blindsided by the blitzing Lynch, who
    hacked at his right arm. Brees fumbled and injured his right
    shoulder when he went for the ball and had defensive tackle Gerard
    Warren land on him.

    Brees had surgery and was considered damaged goods, so he was
    allowed to leave as a free agent, and Rivers was promoted.

    Rookie Jay Cutler, meanwhile, will make his second start for the
    Broncos at quarterback. Cutler threw two touchdown passes, but also two costly interceptions in the Broncos' 23-20 loss to Seattle on
    Sunday night.

    It was his first experience feeling the heat, especially off the
    field, that comes with being Denver's quarterback.

    "Yeah, that's good. I deserve it," he said. "I made some
    mistakes out there, things that I shouldn't do, but there were some
    positives, too. There was good and bad."
  5. BoltsFanUK

    BoltsFanUK Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2006
    Advantage Bolts

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