Three takeaways from the Denver Broncos’ 24–21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football
1. Trevor Siemian did enough to convince any doubters that he deserved the starting job, while still flashing the kind of poor decision-making that led to some very avoidable turnovers in critical situations a year ago. In the Broncos’ 24–21 win, he was masterful in orchestrating scoring drives of 70, 56 and 78 yards, grinding down the Chargers’ defense with a short passing game that minimized risk and allowed playmakers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas opportunities to create with their feet. Yet he threw two bone-headed passes—one mercifully dropped by a fast-breaking Casey Hayward in the first half, and another intercepted in the second half by Adrian Phillips—after targeting a smothered receiver. The last throw gave Los Angeles the ball at Denver’s 43, and a Keenan Allen touchdown six plays later opened the door for a short-lived San Diego comeback.
2. Looking forward, it’s difficult to trust either of these offensive lines against the Chiefs or Raiders in the AFC West. Chargers left tackle Russell Okung played matador against Shaquil Barrett (a role he’s familiar with at Mile High). The combination of Von Miller and Barrett, Denver’s third-best pass rusher, had Philip Rivers on the run for much of the night. When the Broncos had the ball, right tackle Menelik Watson was obviously overmatched by Melvin Ingram (which is understandable) and Ingram understudy Chris McCain (less so). First-round pick Garrett Bolles did his best with a tough draw in Joey Bosa and Ingram, and turned in a blemished performance that nonetheless justified his draft position. Both of these teams spent draft picks and cash on the offensive line this offseason, but if Monday night is any indication, neither did enough to feel confident about two games apiece against Oakland’s Khalil Mack and Kansas City’s Justin Houston.
3. After watching convincing Oakland and Kansas City wins over tough opponents in Week 1, this felt like the third-place game in a division race that one could imagine producing three playoff teams, or at least a 9–7 team that misses the dance. If you were looking for a clear favorite, Monday didn’t provide one. Keenan Allen could have distinguished himself as the kind of No. 1 receiver who remains a consistent factor against any and all competition, but he didn’t. Denver’s talented defense could have shut the door on Rivers and an uninspiring group of receivers, but stumbled late and opened the door for a would-be game-tying Younghoe Koo field goal, which was blocked by Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris.
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