Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all of the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.
For the first time since 1992, the Denver Broncos were shut out by an opponent in their 21-0 embarrassment to the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers. The game had few standout performances and plenty of blame to go around. Here are our grades.
Domata Peko: B+
Peko was crucial in the Broncos early goal-line stand—he had a big-time stuff on 3rd-and-goal and then was again crucial in clogging the gap and forcing Melvin Gordon to redirect on 4th-and-goal.
He also made a big and unexpected sack to pin the Chargers back on what looked like a promising drive. Peko had some nice plays and was useful when LA tried to run it up the middle with Gordon. The Broncos loss is not on him.
Derek Wolfe: C+
Wolfe was crucial on the 4th-and-goal stop on the opening drive, blowing up the play and closing down on the run. After that stop, Wolfe’s impact wasn’t felt too much. The interior defensive line isn’t creating nearly enough pressure or penetration.
Adam Gotsis: C-
No. 99 had his worst game of the season and was simply absent. He was called for a holding on a run allowing an automatic first down. Aside from that, you really didn’t see much out of Gotsis, whose athleticism and motor had been a real spark for the front seven in the first month of the season.
His snaps have decreased in the last three games, and he hasn’t been nearly as impactful.
Von Miller: A-
Even with two sacks, Miller was more like a star actor making a few cameo’s then a playmaker dominating down-in and down-out like Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram were on the other side of the ball.
His first sack came against former Broncos fan favorite Michael Schofield, on Denver’s very first play defensively after having gone down 7-0. A seemingly big response physiologically from the defensive star. He created more pressure on Philip Rivers by blitzing up the middle forcing an intentional grounding penalty. He then got a gimme sack right at the end of the game when the QB decided to swallow the ball and not risk a pass.
When used in coverage, he did a nice job and didn’t have any issues against the run. He had another high-level performance. For a future Hall of Famer and the best player on the team, you’d like to see one or two game-changing plays. That’s all that was really missing.
Todd Davis: C
Davis’ issues continued after a very positive start to the year, though he’s only partially to blame as he’s being used out of place.
When asked to stop the run he made a great play on 4th-and-goal, bursting through the hole and making a crucial stuff.
In coverage, he struggled and allowed two big completions to Hunter Henry when isolated against the talented tight end.
Brandon Marshall: B-
Marshall came up big getting past the fullback and clogging the running lane on 4th-and-goal. He was also crucial with Miller on a double A-gap blitz that forced Rivers into the aforementioned intentional grounding call that forced LA into punting.
No. 54’s one negative play stood out as he was unable to stick with the speedy Austin Ekeler who was put in motion and got open with ease on Marshall, giving the Chargers their second touchdown.
Shaquil Barrett: B
Shaq made a big play with a tackle for a loss on 2nd-and-goal, blowing up Henry who had no business trying to block him.
When isolated on Gordon in coverage out on the flats, he was great closing up space immediately. He also forced a quick a couple pressures on Rivers, one that forced a punt in closing time.
Barrett might not have dominated Russell Okung like he could’ve, but that was partially due to LA’s balanced play calling.
Darian Stewart: C
Stewart had one big play in this game, and it wasn’t a positive one. He was flagged in the end zone for interference on Henry. The foul was legitimate as he seemed to make early contact on the tight end while he didn’t turn his head around.
The ruthless back-end enforcer that we saw in his first two years in Denver hasn’t been there this season.
Justin Simmons: C
Simmons didn’t have any mishaps in coverage in this one which had been an issue the last couple games. He did, however, take a bad angle when closing down on Travis Benjamin in space, who ran right by him for the 21-0 touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Per the advanced stats, that still might not count as a missed tackle, an area in which Simmons has been praised this year, but that touchdown is on him, make no mistake.
Chris Harris Jr.: A-
Harris was targeted more in this game than he seemingly has in any other this season. At first, he was targeted on a low pass over the middle to Keenan Allen that was dropped by the star receiver. Allen then beat him on a scramble drill by Rivers who found the WR going back to the ball. He also allowed a short throw to Allen for nine yards, who shook him on a post to gain room inside.
All in all, he battled all day with Allen and forced him into his second-lowest yardage total of the year – his lowest was against the Broncos Week 1. He’s another guy who the loss should not fall on.
Aqib Talib: A
Teams are simply not throwing to Talib this year as it’s just not worth the trouble of getting burned by the ball-hawking, pick-six master.
Frustrated that he couldn’t make more of an impact by getting the football equivalent of an intentional walk, Talib unleashed a tackle that dropped Ekeler back in the flats for no gain.
He’s played great, even if he’s not getting tested at all in coverage.
Other noteworthy defensive performances:
Bradley Roby made a great play on the ball while in coverage on Allen, tipping the pass in the process and almost forcing an interception. He got beat by Allen on a sideline throw that set up LA at Denver’s 1-yard line for the Ekeler score. He then made another big pass deflection on Allen on 2nd-and-19.
His worst play was when he got flagged for pass interference on Allen on 3rd-and-6 in the fourth quarter, a costly penalty. Generally speaking, Roby played well.
Will Parks had a great stop on the goal line on Gordon bursting through the line. He also created a key pressure off a blitz for the opening 3rd-and-6 stop to force a Chargers punt. While playing perfect coverage on Henry, he couldn’t tip the ball to affect the pass on a great play by the tight end. His best game of the year, a big performance.
Garett Bolles: D+
After showing growth just about every week in his rookie season, Bolles regressed while being matched up against the duo that gave him issues Week 1.
He allowed Melvin Ingram to run free for an easy tackle for a loss that set the offense back on first down. Two plays later, he was called on a blatant holding call as Trevor Siemian scrambled on 3rd-and-long.
He then was pushed right into Siemian to start off the two-minute drive at the end of the first half in the worst way possible. At the end of the game, as the Chargers had their backup edge rushers in, Bolles was flagged on a hold. A poor performance in pass protection.
While the Broncos seemed to try and run it to his side a bit more, they had little success.
Max Garcia: C-
Starting full-time for Garcia might have helped somewhat as he wasn’t as much of a liability in this game. That’s not to say he played well but just had fewer negative standout plays than other games.
He was blown up on 3rd-and-1, allowing a tackle for a loss and third down stop right before the Broncos punted the ball that was returned for a touchdown. He hasn’t looked athletic on pulls and, like the entire interior o-line, he didn’t create enough push for the run. Garcia did recover a fumble at the end of the game which is worth mentioning.
Matt Paradis: C-
The biggest play that Denver’s center had was on a stunt where Ingram came smoking up the middle and Paradis wasn’t quick enough to pick him up, as he absolutely destroyed Siemian on the hit. The push on the ground’s been missing for him as well.
Ronald Leary: C-
Leary’s lost some edge and while Denver tried to run it to his side there just wasn’t any push being created. He’s far from the biggest chink in the armor in the offensive trenches, but he’s not dominating like he could.
Allen Barbre: D-
Barbre was put in a tough spot, facing maybe the best pass rushing duo in the league while playing out of position. So credit to him for battling, but the performance wasn’t good.
He was called on a hold when Siemian took off for his 3rd-and-long scramble, and couldn’t contain Chris McCain who chased Siemian down on the backside, forcing the Broncos second fumble of the first half. Barbre struggled most with Joey Bosa, who absolutely dominated him with an inside move for a big sack at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with Denver in field goal range.
At the end the game, he allowed a strip sack by McCain, showing that even with Ingram and Bosa on the bench, the Broncos issues in pass protection are real.
C.J. Anderson: C+
C.J. ran it with physicality and managed to break a few tackles. The problem is the tackles he broke allowed him to avoid a loss of yardage instead of gaining positive yards. It was that kind of game.
With some tough running on 3rd-and-3, he was able to get a crucial third-down conversion (one of only three Denver had all game). The touches are lacking, and he’s not a star who’ll make something happen out of nothing, but he’s trying his hardest.
Demaryius Thomas: C-
Emmanuel Sanders’ absence was felt most for Thomas who was locked down as the Chargers were able to focus their attention on him. On six targets Thomas only has two receptions for nine yards to show for it.
His one big play was called for offensive pass interference, nullifying what would’ve been a huge gain and run after the catch. Just not his day.
Bennie Fowler: C+
Fowler had five grabs for 45 yards, but really none of them were big for Denver as he just found space underneath when the game was out of reach. He had a sloppy play, stepping out of bounds on what could’ve been a precious early first down conversion.
Virgil Green: C-
Green had one big moment and really did everything right on his end. He wasn’t able to make a grab on an under-thrown sideline pass that the tight end had to go back to try and catch and was almost intercepted after Green bobbled it. If not for Green battling to knock the pass incomplete, it could’ve easily been intercepted.
With the run game not humming, his blocking impact wasn’t felt as much, which limited him in this one.
Trevor Siemian: C-
Siemian didn’t play a good game, but you couldn’t expect him to under these circumstances. He’s not a player with a huge arm or big frame; he needs to operate within a solid structure and right now he doesn’t have that.
He was under duress the entire game and really struggled with the pressure as things wore on. The QB tried to make a couple plays with his feet but ultimately didn’t do much. His passes were inconsistent, and he often wasn’t able to get stable footing in a constantly collapsing pocket. He was also lucky to not have had a couple more interceptions thanks to some drops.
His vision and decision making continue to be shaky at times, the same goes for his accuracy. He’s been a below average NFL quarterback the last four games, but the offensive ineptitude doesn’t all fall on him.
Other noteworthy offensive performances:
A.J. Derby had a costly fumble on the very first catch of the game. He was called for a false start on the very next play. After that, he was targeted on several snaps on Denver’s last drive making a couple nice grabs to move the chains. He led the Broncos in receptions; it’s a shame things started off so poorly.
Devontae Booker has looked really good in the passing game, he’s getting open often and has been a factor.
Special Teams: D
The big burden of this low grade falls on the poor punt and coverage that allowed Benjamin’s early touchdown. The punt was flat, and the coverage was too easily taken apart. Benjamin made another big return on the very next punt as well.
The Broncos had issues on kickoffs as well with Brandon Langley returning kicks for 9 and 15 yards to start the game off. Special teams have been unable to win the field position battle the last couple of games.
On a positive note, new addition Hunter Sharp looked good on punt returns.
When you’re handled so soundly, there’s little you can say that’s positive about the coaching staff. Especially the half-time adjustments (or lack thereof) have been troublesome. It’s also worth questioning if the talents on either side of the ball are truly being maximized.
Mike McCoy made an effort to establish the run early on but wasn’t helped by getting into an early hole. It’s worth questioning if he did enough to cover up his offensive line deficiencies with added personnel up front or more quick hitting routes.
Joe Woods’ adjustments on the defensive side helped limit Henry and Ekeler’s impact as both were issues in the first half. The ‘D’ however hasn’t looked nearly as ferocious attacking downhill as they have in years past and that’s a big part of why we’re not seeing more turnovers here.
Vance Joseph now has the unique distinction of being the first Broncos head coach to get shut out in this millennium. VJ’s ability to turn things around, adjust and get the team to rally will be a key test for him going forward.