The Denver Broncos’ best offensive play of the night didn’t count.
Late in the fourth quarter, C.J. Anderson scampered and muscled his way for a tough 20-yard touchdown reception to bring the Broncos within one score with just over four minutes left. Thing is, Russell Okung committed a holding penalty, bringing the play back. On the next play, Trevor Siemian got sacked for 10 more yards. The play after that, he found Demaryius Thomas, who promptly fumbled the ball back to the Chargers. The Broncos mounted another half-baked comeback, but the game really ended for them with that sad self-inflicted dick punch of a drive.
The Broncos started the season off a dominant 4-0. They’ve since lost consecutive games to the Falcons, who are good, and the Chargers, who are not. It’s not time to panic, but these past two weeks have been a reminder that the team’s uninspiring offense gives them only a small margin of error. No matter how well Von Miller and the rest of the defense play every week, the Broncos don’t score consistently enough to be trustworthy.
The Chargers have managed to get into insane shootouts almost every week of the NFL season thus far, and somehow the Broncos put up the fewest points of any Chargers opponent tonight. Siemian threw 50 times in his return from a shoulder injury, but only managed 230 yards. He ran an incredibly unthreatening offense, who almost never seemed liable to break out for big plays. In the first half, the Broncos got to start on the 11-yard line after they recovered a muffed punt. All they could muster was a field goal.
The Chargers held Denver to just 60 yards of offense in the first half, then were more than happy to play soft coverage and give up seven and eight yard catches as the Broncos mounted their doomed comeback in the second half. Denver made the game harder than it had to be by fumbling at inopportune times and committing a penalty in their end zone for a safety, but the outcome was about as close as it should have been. San Diego kicked four short field goals, and moved the ball effectively against the fearsome Denver defense.
But offensive struggles are not terribly out of character for Denver. The best version of the Broncos was always going to be a mediocre offense anchored by a terrifying pack of pass rushers and cornerbacks. Trevor Siemian is an improvement over Peyton Manning, but he’s still not the type of player who can win a game by himself. Missing Gary Kubiak being out with a migraine may have hurt the offense’s rhythm. Some games, the defense won’t come up with their customary bonus score and the offense will merely kick the tires.
That’s fine. The team’s explosive pass rush is still there to destroy opposing quarterbacks, and they now have all the way until next week’s Monday Night Football to recover. The 4-2 Broncos are not the world beaters that the 4-0 Broncos appeared to be, but this is not a tailspin.