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Week 13 Game Recap: Denver Broncos 17, San Diego Chargers 3


What you need to know

Denver Broncos

Much like over the first month of the season, Denver won with an offense that couldn’t do much and a defense that gave up nothing. Outside of a long touchdown drive and a field-goal drive that started at midfield, Denver struggled to cross midfield for most of the afternoon against a poor San Diego defense missing several starters to injury.

San Diego Chargers

Quarterback Philip Rivers was under heavy duress all game long. Rivers has shown a knack for putting up big stats this season despite missing several key targets and a few linemen as well, but perhaps owners want to re-think putting him in their fantasy lineups when the Chargers face a top tier defense.

Running back Melvin Gordon finally looked like the talent the Chargers drafted in the first round this past spring, but a costly fumble was the end of his rushing duties. The team threw a pass in his direction, but he didn't see any more rushing attempts following the turnover.

The receiving game is a bit of a mess for San Diego. With wide receiver Keenan Allen already out for the year, fellow receivers Malcom Floyd and Stevie Johnson also missing time due to injuries, and tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green missing time as well, they now lost wide receiver Dontrelle Inman with what looked like a serious neck injury.

Denver Broncos

QB Brock Osweiler, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 26 - 166 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 1 - 0
When Brock Osweiler led the Denver Broncos to a touchdown on their opening drive against the San Diego Chargers, it seemed as if he was poised to build upon his success against New England. Instead, Denver’s offense became more and more mired the longer it played, especially in the second half as the teams battled to a scoreless draw.

Denver once again limited Osweiler’s responsibilities, giving him few shots down the field. On one of his rare opportunities, Osweiler lobbed a pass deep down the left sideline to a covered Emmanuel Sanders; the pass, thrown short, was intercepted in the end zone to end a rare promising drive. Osweiler also poorly managed the 2-minute drill to end the first half, almost throwing an easy interception that was dropped by the defense and then dumping the ball over the middle as time expired on the half. On the whole, Osweiler looked much more like the inexperienced quarterback he is than he had in his first two weeks.

RB Ronnie Hillman, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 56 - 0 (1 targets)
Getting another start for the Denver Broncos, Hillman continued to be a boom and bust option in the running game. Hillman had a handful of nice runs, especially when he had room to gain yards before contact, but too many of his carries resulted in long yardage for Denver. When platoon-mate C.J. Anderson injured his ankle in the first half, Hillman split carries with backup Juwan Thompson in the second half rather than seeing an increased workload of his own.

RB C.J. Anderson, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 42 - 0, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (1 targets)
While Ronnie Hillman once again got the start, C.J. Anderson picked up where he left off in recent weeks with some phenomenal running between the tackles, including turning a broken tackle at the line of scrimmage into a 22-yard gain on his first carry of the game. Unfortunately for Anderson, who was having a terrific day running the ball, he injured his ankle just before halftime and sat out the second half. Asked about the injury after the game, Anderson said “I'm not worried at all. I'm fine.”

WR Demaryius Thomas, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 61 - 1 (6 targets)
What a difference a week makes. After catching virtually nothing against the New England Patriots, Demaryius Thomas hauled in all six of his targets against the San Diego Chargers, including an easy 3-yard touchdown on a shallow crossing route thrown right between the coverage. Thomas converted a pair of third-and-long situations with quick catch-and-run opportunities, and had a third such conversion called back when he was called for a (borderline) offensive pass interference penalty.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 55 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (8 targets)
Sanders actually led the Broncos in targets against the San Diego Chargers, but his day mostly consisted of he and quarterback Brock Osweiler struggling to get on the same page deep down the field. Sanders was the intended target on nearly every one of Osweiler’s deep throws, including an underthrown 30-yard pass where Sanders failed to separate and the ball was intercepted in the end zone. While the commitment was a positive sign, Sanders has to hope that the accuracy will be there, too, in future weeks.

TE Owen Daniels, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (3 targets)
Owen Daniels had a quiet game as the fourth option in the passing game behind Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and new tight end Vernon Davis. Daniels drew just three targets, none after halftime as Denver largely concentrated on running out the clock, and failed to register a single first down.

TE Vernon Davis, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 25 - 0 (3 targets)
Vernon Davis saw a little bit of usage against the San Diego Chargers before suffering a concussion on the final play of the first half. Davis did not play after halftime, and Denver’s running game seemed to decline without his steady blocking on the field.


San Diego Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 35 - 202 - 0 TD / 1 INT
For most of the season, Rivers has been able to rise above the many obstacles facing him. The injuries and ineffectiveness to the offensive line, the injuries to his receiving corps, and a lack of help from the running game. But combining all those factors along with facing arguably the league's best defense, proved to be too tall a task in this one. Rivers never did look comfortable in the pocket all game long. He was leaping as he made several pass attempts, scrambling out of the pocket, and forcing passes long before he really wanted to. He also turned the ball over on one critical play, and interception that was returned for a touchdown (the fifth time that has happened to Rivers this season). He actually threw a sixth "pick six", but there was a holding penalty on Denver which negated the turnover. It was a good thing for San Diego that the penalty was called too, because tight end Antonio Gates ran the wrong route and it would have been easily picked off even without the hold. Rivers was hit on what seemed like every single drop-back, and never really came close to finding the end zone. In the second half, he was nearly picked off again - although he had drawn the defense and probably knew he had a free play, so he took a shot at a home run ball. But the story of this game was the Denver pressure. One play in particular that pretty much summed up the entire performance came late in the contest. Running to his left while being chased by a defender, Rivers thought the pressure was closer than it really was. He threw the ball away - with his left hand - and the pass was thrown so softly that it didn't come close to reaching the line of scrimmage, and Rivers was called for intentional grounding.

RB Melvin Gordon, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 55 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
The numbers don't entirely back it up, but Gordon looked as good as he has all season long. For much of the season, he has danced around too much in the backfield and has been slow to get to the edge. In this one, he showed a bit of a wiggle that has been missing from his game for most of the year. At one point following a 13-yard scamper, he was shown on the bench having his left ankle re-taped. Early in the second half, he had a nice 21-yard run that really showed some nice open field moves. But just as he was starting to look good, he coughed up the ball for a fumble that was recovered by Denver. He has now lost four fumbles this season, tied for the most in the league with Adrian Peterson. Following the fumble, the team put the ball in his hands on the very next play. However, it was a pass play. There were only a handful of rushing attempts the remainder of the game, but they were all handled by Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown.

RB Donald Brown, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 26 - 0, Rec: 1 - 31 - 0 (1 targets)
Brown got an inordinately large workload, even besting Danny Woodhead in terms of touches from scrimmage. In fact, it was Brown who had the longest play of the game for San Diego. He took a dumpoff while crossing the field from right to left, beat his man to the edge, and took off down the sideline for a 31-yard catch and run. It was San Diego's first (and last) big play of the game, but he looked good nonetheless. In the second half, following the Melvin Gordon fumble, it was Brown who saw most of the rushing duties. His long gain went for 11 yards, and he totaled 15 yards on his other six carries.

RB Danny Woodhead, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 10 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (7 targets)
Woodhead's reduced workload continues to be one of the more puzzling aspects of the 2015 season. A player who just a few weeks ago was firmly entrenched in the league's top ten fantasy running backs, now finds himself seeing fewer touches than journeyman Donald Brown. When it was Melvin Gordon seeing more work than Woodhead, it at least made sense in that the Chargers traded up and spent a high draft pick on Gordon and wanted to see a return on that investment. But in a game that San Diego trailed throughout (meaning more pass attempts, Woodhead's specialty), Woodhead saw just six touches as opposed to thirteen for Gordon and even eight for Brown. Obviously with such little activity, it's tough to get much rhythm established. The Chargers were never really close to scoring range, and Woodhead's role appeared to be little more than an afterthought in the gameplan.

WR Javontee Herndon, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 0 (2 targets)
Herndon played a bit more after the injury to fellow wideout Dontrelle Inman, and was moderately effective. He hauled in both targets, including one where he came back to the ball and went up high to turn a 3rd and 20 into a 4th and 4. It's too early to speculate on the Inman injury, but if it turns out to be significant, then Herndon would likely see a big bump in playing time moving forward.

WR Dontrelle Inman, 9 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (2 targets)
Inman left the game with what appeared to be a serious head and/or neck injury in the first half. The play where it happened didn't look too bad on first viewing, as he went up high to make a nice 15-yard grab and then was tackled as he landed. But replays showed that the defenders head made contact with Inman's head, bending his neck at an awkward angle. He remained on the ground for a long time, and was strapped down and removed from the game on a cart. There were no visible signs of movement from Inman, not even the customary "thumbs up" that players typically give as they're leaving the field of play. No immediate update was given on his condition afterwards.

WR Malcom Floyd, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (4 targets)
Floyd went up high for a pass down the seam early on, but was unable to bring it in. The ball was right in his hands inside the red zone, but he just couldn't come down with what would have gone for a nice gain. He did bring in a crossing route in the second half, but fumbled it away right at the end of the run for San Diego's third turnover of the game. Floyd's specialty is the deep ball. But the Denver pressure on Philip Rivers didn't really allow for very many plays to develop deep downfield, limiting Floyd's effectiveness.

WR Steve Johnson, 44 offensive snaps
On a day that the Chargers trailed throughout and saw Philip Rivers throw 35 pass attempts (not to mention fellow wideout Dontrelle Inman leaving very early on with a serious injury), Johnson wasn't targeted once in the game because he left with a groin injury. The Chargers are down to the bottom of the barrel at wide receiver.

TE Antonio Gates, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 50 - 0 (9 targets)
With Keenan Allen out for the season, Gates enters every game as the de factor number one option in the receiving game. In this game, Stevie Johnson was completely flummoxed by the Denver defense and didn't even see a single target. And the other primary option in the passing game, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, left the game with what appeared to be a very serious neck injury early on. It's no surprise, then, that Gates led all players on both teams in targets. His first look came early in the first quarter, a floater down the sideline that would have gone for over twenty yards. But just as he was about to bring it in, he was drilled by a defender, jarring the ball loose. On his next target, he brought in a crossing route and lunged for the first down marker to convert it. He continued getting open almost at will, but more often than not it was crossing routes and short grabs over the middle for minimal gains. Part of the reason he wasn't able to do much down the field is the same reason none of the Chargers could do much down the field; because Philip Rivers was constantly under pressure, and didn't have enough time for anything deep to develop.

TE Ladarius Green, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (6 targets)
Green had a very Gates-esque reception on a crossing route, out-running the linebacker to the edge en route to picking up 16 yards on the play. He was later targeted on a deep corner fade in the end zone, but the ball was overthrown by a good amount. He also had a fourth down floater go off his fingertips on the last-gasp drive by San Diego, but it would have been a very difficult catch to make.

TE John Phillips, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
Phillips went up high to bring in a reception on the first pass play of the game. But with a healthy and active Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, it's no surprise that that was Phillips' only target of the game.