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Week 1 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 21, Denver Broncos 24


What you need to know

Los Angeles Chargers

The offense will flow largely through Melvin Gordon. He touched the ball on over 40% of the team's offensive plays from scrimmage, and was almost equal parts runner and receiver in this game. He rarely left the field, and appears to be one of the league's rare true three-down backs.

Philip Rivers showed he can still fill up the stat sheet in a hurry, especially when he's surrounded by as many offensive weapons as he's got now. Despite completing just six of eleven first half passes, he still completed 16-22 in the second half and nearly eclipsed 200 yards en route to a three touchdown performance. If the defense plays as poorly as it did in this game, Rivers could be in line for huge offensive performances while the team tries to play "catch-up"

It's anybody's guess who will be the leading receiver in a given game, although Keenan Allen is certainly the top option in the passing game. But it's an odd stat line when the quarterback throws three touchdowns, while the number one receiver (Keenan Allen) averages seven yards per carry, the young upstart tight end (Hunter Henry) isn't targeted, and the third-string running back (Austin Ekeler) goes for more yardage than a future Hall of Famer (Antonio Gates).

Denver Broncos

The inactives on Denver's week 1 injury chart included backup RB Devontae Booker and backup QB Paxton Lynch on offense, as well as defensive linemen Jared Crick and Zach Kerr. Brock Osweiler was re-signed to hold down backup duties in Lynch's absence. Denver agreed to terms on a 3 year extension for kicker Brandon McManus Monday before the game. Receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Cody Latimer returned punts and kicks, respectively, but did not contribute in the passing game at all.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 33 - 192 - 3 TD / 1 INT
With the Chargers trying to keep it close early on, they leaned heavily on the run game. Rivers completed just 6-11 passes in the first half, and they weren't really attacking down the field. But as has been the case so many times, when the team fell behind and took to the air, Rivers started finding his rhythm. Despite being under duress throughout the game, he was putting up respectable stats if not a huge volume of pass plays. He even found Melvin Gordon on a short dumpoff over the middle for a score, although the majority of that touchdown was the result of a fantastic individual effort by Gordon. Early in the second half, Rivers' lone turnover came on a slant intended for Keenan Allen. Both Rivers and Allen screamed profusely at the official for a pass interference or illegal contact flag, but it wouldn't come. Finally, the Chargers broke through with another score when Rivers found a wide open Allen near the back of the end zone to make the game 24-14. Following a Broncos fumble, Rivers took over and immediately connected with Travis Benjamin on a wide open 38-yard touchdown bomb. It was thrown in perfect stride, with Benjamin beating everyone on the play. On the team's final last-gasp drive to try and tie it up, he was nearly intercepted on a pass over the middle but would have been bailed out by the pass interference flag anyway. Rivers managed to drive the team close enough to attempt a game-tying field goal, but the kick was blocked.

RB Melvin Gordon, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 54 - 0, Rec: 5 - 25 - 1 (6 targets)
Granted, it was only one week. But Gordon amassed 23 touches from scrimmage on 55 offensive plays for the Chargers. Touching the ball on ten of the team's first sixteen plays, it would appear that this offense will once again run through him. His very first carry of the game was a 21-yard scamper up the middle from the shadow of his own end zone. The offensive line opened a nice hole, and he did a good job picking where to take it. His next run went up the left side and he pushed the pile for five yards. That's the good news. The bad news is that the remaining 16 carries went for just 28 total yards. There was very little room to operate after that first big gain, but fortunately he also made his presence felt in the passing game. He tied a game high with five receptions, including his first touchdown reception of the season. He circled out of the backfield, waited for the dumpoff from Rivers, and leap-frogged over and through the defender as part of a tremendous individual effort for the score. In the second half, there was even less room as the Chargers trailed by multiple scores. Facing a fourth down call around midfield down by 17 points, Gordon was met in the backfield and never had a chance. Later on the last-gasp attempt to tie the game, Gordon was given yet another chance on fourth down but this time he converted. That helped extend the drive, but the Chargers would ultimately fall short when the game-tying field goal attempt was blocked.

RB Branden Oliver, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 10 - 0 (1 targets)
Oliver came on early in the second quarter, taking a couple of handoffs for a total of eight yards. Starter Melvin Gordon came back on for the third down run, then exited immediately after converting. Oliver got another couple of handoffs on the next set of downs, but that was the extent of his work. If this game is any indication, it appears that Gordon is a true three-down back, with Oliver and Austin Ekeler merely providing relief work.

RB Austin Ekeler
Ekeler caught a short checkdown over the middle, darting out towards the sideline for a decent gain of 11. His only other reception went for seven yards. Primary backup Branden Oliver had just four total touches (all on the ground) while Ekeler had just two (both on receptions).

WR Tyrell Williams, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 54 - 0 (7 targets)
Williams is expected to fill the role as the number two wide receiver for the Chargers this season. And with the return of Keenan Allen from injury it was expected that Williams' target share will greatly decrease from last year. But at least in this game, Williams tied for the team lead in receptions and actually led the team in receiving yardage. He was targeted on the first play of the game, but didn't record his first reception until late in the first half. With the offense largely running through both Allen and Melvin Gordon, it was difficult for Williams to get in a rhythm. But in the second half, his targets were more reminiscent of 2016. The quick inside slants and crossing routes were how he did most of his work - and he nearly added another somewhat long reception on the last drive, but a great play by the Denver defender was the only reason it was stripped away for an incompletion at the last moment.

WR Keenan Allen, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 35 - 1 (10 targets)
A year removed from a torn ACL, Allen re-staked his claim as the top option in the Los Angeles passing game. He didn't have a great game, and even suffered a couple of rare drops, but he made his presence felt with a lot of activity. The volume of passes that went in his direction is all the evidence we need that he is the go-to guy for Philip Rivers. Allen did most of his work over the middle of the field as usual, with a healthy dose of slants and crossing patterns. On his lone deep target, he was able to draw a pass interference penalty on the play. His next-longest target was a mid-range pass that went for a second half touchdown. Allen broke off the line on a slant and got wide open in the back of the end zone for the easy score, but was whistled for a personal foul penalty after it appeared he tossed the ball at a Denver defender. There didn't appear to be any plays where Allen really tested his surgically-repaired knee, as his lone visibly hard cut back came on his left leg. If he isn't 100% recovered from his injury last year, he appears to be extremely close.

WR Travis Benjamin, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 43 - 1 (4 targets)
Benjamin didn't get a ton of action in the game, but he sure made his one big opportunity count. Trailing by ten late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers took over after a Denver turnover. Benjamin streaked down the left side of the field to beat the last man and Philip Rivers connected for a perfect 38-yard bomb touchdown to cut the deficit to just three. As the fourth or possibly even fifth option in the passing game, Benjamin will lack for volume in most games. But if he can convert those few opportunities into big plays, he'll stand to gain a lot more work if injuries should strike.

TE Antonio Gates, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (3 targets)
Gates was nearly invisible for the majority of the game, with just one target through the first three quarters. He finally hauled in his first catch on an 11-yard grab early in the fourth quarter. On one of the late fourth quarter drives, he caught a short pass over the middle to set up a third and short situation. But the majority of the offense ran through the wide receivers and Melvin Gordon in this game.

TE Hunter Henry, 23 offensive snaps
Henry, a potential breakout pick of several pundits this year, had a very inauspicious start to his season with zero receptions. In fact, he wasn't even looked at in the passing game. The Charger tight ends as a whole only saw two short catches, both by Antonio Gates.


Denver Broncos

QB Trevor Siemian, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 28 - 219 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 6 - 19 - 1
Need to Know

The inactives on Denver's week 1 injury chart included backup RB Devontae Booker and backup QB Paxton Lynch on offense, as well as defensive linemen Jared Crick and Zach Kerr. Brock Osweiler was re-signed to hold down backup duties in Lynch's absence. Denver agreed to terms on a 3 year extension for kicker Brandon McManus Monday before the game. Receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Cody Latimer returned punts and kicks, respectively, but did not contribute in the passing game at all.

Trevor Siemian

Siemian scored 3 touchdowns on the night, connecting with Bennie Fowler twice for passing touchdowns. The first was quick thinking on Siemian's part, as San Diego jumped offsides before the Broncos snapped the ball in the red zone. Siemian quickly called for the ball and scrambled until he could find a diving Fowler in the back of the end zone on the free play. His second touchdown pass came again in the red zone, with Fowler the closest of 3 receivers flexed to the left of the formation. Siemian took the snap from the shotgun and fired a laser up the seam to Fowler. Siemian also had a rushing touchdown on a bootleg run in the 2nd quarter from the 1 yard line.

Siemian's rushing stat line doesn't reflect how effective he was with his mobility, extending several passing plays with his feet before finding receivers. He did not throw any interceptions, though he had a close call on an ill-advised throw in the 4th quarter.

RB C.J. Anderson, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 81 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (3 targets)
Anderson got the start and shared time in the backfield with Jamaal Charles. The duo proved to be an effective 1-2 punch, posting nearly identical YPC(Anderson-4.1, Charles 4.0). Anderson got most of the tough carries between the tackles, toting the ball 20 times to Charles' 10. Anderson bounced a carry outside off left tackle and juked a defender out of his shoes midway through the 2nd quarter for a big gain. He was stuffed on a 1st and goal carry inside the 1 yard line later in the drive. Anderson had a touchdown run up the middle in the third quarter that was called back for an illegal offensive shift. He caught 1 of 3 targets for a gain of 7.

RB Jamaal Charles, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 40 - 0 (1 targets)
The Broncos used Charles as the only change of pace to lead back CJ Anderson, with Anderson garnering twice the carries(20 to 10). Charles did post a nearly identical YPC.

J.C. had a couple of impressive carries midway through the 3rd quarter, and a goal line carry(his only of the night)that was blown up by an unblocked defender. Charles could not secure his only pass target of the night. He looked good as a receiver in preseason and should contribute more in the passing game in the future.

WR Demaryius Thomas, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 67 - 0 (8 targets)
Thomas missed several practices since injuring his groin in week 3 of the preseason, but the injury didn't appear to slow him any after resuming practice Wednesday in full. DT had a diving catch for a 11 yards on an out route in the 1st quarter. He let a good pass glance off his hands on a quick slant in the 3rd quarter, but Siemian went right back to him on the next play for a big gain on an over-the-shoulder catch down the right sideline. Thomas hauled in an out route for a 12 yard gain midway through the 3rd quarter. Though he did not find the end zone, DT finished the night with the team-high target, catch, and yardage totals.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (6 targets)
Sanders just narrowly missed a diving catch in the end zone on a deep corner route in the 1st quarter. The touchdown pass glanced off his fingertips. He hauled in a quick screen in the 3rd quarter for a 1st down. Sanders had an amazing catch and run midway through the 3rd quarter, catching a quick pass and bouncing the ball all the way across the field on his way to making most of the team miss. He secured a touchdown pass but landed out of bounds in the waning seconds of the 3rd quarter, ending the night with the 2nd most targets(6), 3 catches, and a paltry 26 yards.

WR Bennie Fowler, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 21 - 2 (4 targets)
Fowler posted a career night. His first catch was a 10 yard out route in the 1st quarter. Fowler scored soon after on a broken play when San Diego jumped offsides before the snap. Siemian called for the ball, scrambled right and hit Fowler, who made a great diving effort on the catch, in the back of the end zone for the first points of the game. Fowler caught another touchdown pass in the third quarter, flexing just off the offensive line and running a quick route up the seam for a quick touchdown pass from Siemian. Fowler played about half the Broncos offensive snaps, most of them from the slot. His two touchdowns were a career high, but he was only targeted 3 times all night.

TE A.J. Derby, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 34 - 0 (3 targets)
Derby flexed out in the slot and caught a curl route for 1st down yardage in the 2nd quarter. Derby nearly scored on a similar play later in the drive, carrying the ball down inside the 1 yard line. He picked up another 12 yards on a catch and run in the 3rd quarter, finishing with a short but efficient stat line- 3 targets, 3 catches, and 31 yards.

TE Jeff Heuerman, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0 (2 targets)
Heuerman secured his only target, a seam route from the inline position for a big gain in the 1st quarter.

TE Virgil Green, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 44 - 0 (1 targets)
Green made the most of his lone target of the night, hauling it in for a 44 yard gain down the right seam in the 4th quarter. Green turned around while sprinting full speed in the other direction and deftly plucked the football over the defender's head. Green has great athleticism, he just never seems to be a featured part of Denver's passing attack.