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Week 11 Game Recap: San Diego Chargers 23, Denver Broncos 30

San Diego Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, Pass: 24 - 40 - 258 - 2 TD / 2 INT

As usual, Rivers was under a lot of pressure due to poor play by the offensive line. And also as usual, that defensive pressure caused Rivers to make a number of costly mistakes which he then compounded on his own. In the first half, the San Diego offense looked like a shell of its former self. There was no accuracy on Rivers' passes, and the first time he took a shot down the field, he tossed a horrid interception over the middle. The reverse angle replay showed that even if the ball hadn't been picked, it was still thrown well behind the intended target. The Chargers didn't pick up their second first down until 3:25 remained in the half. And following a Denver sack, Rivers got up and screamed at his offensive linemen for failing to slide the protection. Things got better in the second half from a stats perspective, though not from an effectiveness one. He continued rushing throws that didn't need to be rushed, and had no rhythm with his targets. Worse than that, Rivers looked like had had absolutely zero pocket presence. He started feeling pressure that wasn't there, and at other times when there WAS pressure, he had no idea and ended up getting sacked. Rivers was also careless with the football, fumbling it on three different occasions. All of this resulted in the team gaining a total of 72 yards on their first 12 drives. He finally got something going midway through the third quarter. There was a tough pass to WR Robert Meachem in traffic that he really threaded the needle on, and culminated in a touchdown to his new favorite target WR Danario Alexander. The Chargers converted multiple third downs on the possession, and finally looked like the Chargers everyone is used to seeing. Rivers again felt confident enough to look downfield, and it resulted in a 38-yard connection with WR Malcom Floyd (although the ball was woefully underthrown and was only completed due to a great individual effort by Floyd). However, soon after that Rivers added yet another interception. It wasn't really a big deal and actually shouldn't have been picked off since it came on a desperation fourth down pass and actually cost the Broncos field position. But it counts against Rivers in the box score, giving him three turnovers in the game. There was one more bright spot on the day for Rivers when he engineered a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter with his team down by 14. Rivers went 6-6 for 89 yards and a questionable touchdown to Alexander (eventually reviewed and ruled a score). But when San Diego failed to recover the onside kick, it all but ended the game. The Chargers did get the ball back with 23 seconds left, but it wasn't nearly enough time to drive the 87 yards they needed. In fact, Rivers was sacked with just over ten seconds remaining in the game. Rather than bring the team back to the line to try one last desperation play, he instead fired the ball at the official and began walking off the field. Obviously, the chances for them scoring on the play were not great -- but one has to think the chances were much less than that if they didn't even try. That play may be forgotten about by next week, or it may be the latest sign of the team's leader coming unglued at a sign of adversity.

RB Ryan Mathews, Rush: 15 - 47 - 0, Rec: 4 - 36 - 0 (6 targets)

It always seems like Mathews isn't getting a big workload, but at the end of the game you look up and he's got pushing 20 touches (19 in this one). The problem is that he just doesn't do much with them. There is very little room in the running game, and Mathews just doesn't look to be running as hard as he did a season ago. There was rarely a time that he didn't push the pile forward, but now he seems to be taken down on first contact with regularity unless he bounces it outside. This could explain why he was more effective in the passing game where he has some space to work with. He tied for second among all players with four receptions and he actually broke off a couple of decent gains. The problems are that they don't happen with enough frequency, and also when he finally does pick up a decent gain he immediately heads to the sideline for a rest. For very obvious reasons, it is very tough to get a rhythm going when you are in and out of the game every two plays.

RB Ronnie Brown, Rush: 4 - 9 - 0, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (3 targets)

The San Diego run game was almost nonexistent once again, and that has rubbed off on each of the team's halfbacks. Brown had a good run going for a few games, but had just six touches in this one. He did pick up a key third down carry late in the fourth quarter but failed to convert -- which begs the question of why the team was running the football down by two touchdowns with 90 seconds left in the game -- but that is a debate for another time.

RB Jackie Battle, Rush: 4 - -3 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)

Battle got a handful of carries in the early going as the team took it easy on perpetually banged-up running back Ryan Mathews. But as the game went along and the Chargers fell further and further behind, the need for a player of Battle's skill set diminished. And the one time they did call on him was on a third and 1 carry which he was stuffed on.

WR Danario Alexander, Rec: 7 - 96 - 2 (11 targets)

Alexander had a relatively quiet first half, but exploded after halftime to lead all players on both teams in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns. Alexander showed his athleticism early on with a full extension dive near the sideline to make an outstanding sliding catch. He later did a nice job of using his body to shield off the defender in traffic to haul in a first down pass. Late in the third quarter, he hauled in a crucial 8-yard touchdown pass on a back shoulder pass in the front corner of the end zone. He may have pushed off a bit, but there was no call. He again did a nice job of using his body to shield away the defense, providing the physical downfield presence the Chargers have lacked since Vincent Jackson left as a free agent. With San Diego down by two scores, the team drove downfield against a softer Denver defense. On that one drive, Alexander hauled in four passes for 65 yards and a score (prior to that drive, he had just three catches for 31 yards and a score in the entire game). The touchdown he scored late in the fourth quarter was questionable, because he appeared to lose control of the ball as he fell to the ground. However, officials ruled that he had established possession of the ball and then in a second action, reached out over the goal line for the score and only lost it after crossing the goal line. The call on the field was upheld as a touchdown, and Alexander owners who took a chance on him were richly rewarded. There is always the worry that his troublesome knee problems will creep up again, but for now he is showing the talent that had always been there. 

WR Malcom Floyd, Rec: 4 - 67 - 0 (6 targets)

Floyd had a very Floyd-like game. He caught a couple of workmanlike quick outs and comebacks, brought in one long ball, and put up a serviceable stat line when all was said and done. The one long ball from Rivers was actually a fantastic catch by Floyd. He had beaten his defender down the sideline and looked like he may have sprung a big gain, but the ball was pretty badly underthrown by QB Philip Rivers and Floyd had to basically stop running in order to make the catch. He turned back, made a difficult adjustment on the fly, and caught the pass as he fell to the ground, for a 38-yard gain. Newcomer Danario Alexander once again paced the San Diego receivers in catches, yardage, and caught the only two touchdown passes. It remains to be seen if the strengths of each player will complement one another and help from a fantasy perspective, or if they will contradict one another and create a situation where neither has a ton of value. Either way, if you are a Floyd owner and haven't done so already, it would be wise to place a waiver claim for Alexander.

WR Robert Meachem, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)

After no targets all game long, Meachem caught a key third down reception in traffic late in the game. Still, with the emergence of WR Danario Alexander, Meachem's role in the offense has been reduced to almost nothing.

TE Antonio Gates, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (4 targets)

Gates' quiet season continued, as he caught just two short passes including only one in the second half. He did a nice job just getting his hands on the floating screen pass to him, but there was no room to run after the catch. With the emergence of WR Danario Alexander over the last few weeks and the continued solid play of WR Malcom Floyd, it is safe to say that Gates may be no better than the team's third option in the passing game at this point.

Denver Broncos

QB Peyton Manning, Pass: 25 - 42 - 270 - 3 TD / 1 INT

The quarterback, who had historically struggled against the Chargers prior to this season, exacted some more revenge on his former nemesis in this game. He beat them for the second time this season and simultaneously all but wrapped up the AFC West division title. Manning was nearly flawless, getting loads of time to operate and making great decision after great decision. In fact, his stat line could have been far more impressive but he just barely missed on two long passes down the sideline -- one to WR Demaryius Thomas and another to TE Jacob Tamme. Thomas was jammed at the line, and the timing was disrupted. The pass to Tamme was simply an overthrow, though it appeared that Tamme may have been able to catch it and did in fact get a hand on it. Aside from those two near-hits, one of the only blemishes on Manning's afternoon was a tipped pass that ended up getting intercepted and returned for a touchdown. That was San Diego's one and only lead of the game, and Manning quickly turned things around for the better for the Broncos. He threw two touchdowns prior to halftime. The first was a perfect pass over the shoulder of Thomas, who did a nice job of dragging his back foot to keep inbounds for the score. With that score, Manning passed Dan Marino for second place all-time in passing touchdowns with 421. He added number 422 soon after with a phenomenal pump fake underneath to draw the defenders off his man. He then lofted one up top into the end zone to WR Brandon Stokley for the wide open score. Early in the second half, Manning found himself under pressure in the end zone. He was unable to avoid the rush, and was wrapped up for the safety. But it was the last time Manning would be so much as slowed down. Midway through the third quarter, the Broncos sat at the 20-yard line. Getting all day to throw, Manning was able to wait for WR Eric Decker to streak free across the middle of the field. The San Diego defenders lost him in traffic, so he was able to take off for the end zone after the catch and dive in at the last moment for the score. Late in the fourth quarter with the Chargers pulling closer, Manning found Tamme down the seam for 31 yards on a third and 18 pass play to chew up valuable clock time (the drive eventually led to a field goal).

RB Ronnie Hillman, Rush: 12 - 43 - 0, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (2 targets)

Hillman got something of a featured role in the game, thanks to starter Willis McGahee leaving with a knee injury. Hillman provided a different sort of runner, mostly looking to spring his carries to the outside whereas McGahee was more of a straight-ahead power style in the game. Hillman showed good burst on two runs in particular, picking up 21 on one carry and 19 on another. While the big runs are nice, the Denver offense needs a runner who is going to pick up consistent yardage when needed. Obviously those two carries count in the box score, but aside from those two big gains, Hillman gained just three total yards on his other ten carries. That shows how inconsistent his performance was. At the end of the 19-yard gain, he looked to be dragging his leg a bit and was looked at on the sideline for a possible injury. He would return to the game. It should be noted that running behind the same offensive line and against the same defense, McGahee averaged nearly eight yards per carry and unheralded third stringer Lance Ball averaged nearly six, while Hillman averaged just 3.6 per rush.

RB Lance Ball, Rush: 6 - 35 - 0, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)

Ball got a bit more action than he usually does due to starter Willis McGahee leaving the game early on with a knee injury, and backup Ronnie Hillman leaving the game briefly with an apparent leg injury of his own. Ball had nine touches in the game for 56 yards from scrimmage, and looked very good against a normally solid run defense. Ball showed some surprising moves inside and was usually able to move the pile when the situation called for it. Unfortunately for Ball, two plays prevented him from having a bigger day. He caught a quick out and was immediately tackled down at the 1-yard line early on, stopping him from his best scoring chance. And later in the first half, he couldn't maintain possession on a third down reception that was stripped away by San Diego defenders for a fumble. When Hillman left the game, Ball got a brief crack at the featured role, but Hillman returned soon thereafter. The health status of both McGahee and Hillman will determine how much work Ball will see in the coming weeks.

RB Willis McGahee, Rush: 7 - 55 - 0, Rec: 1 - 18 - 0 (2 targets)

It was a frustrating scene for McGahee owners to watch. He picked up 73 quick yards from scrimmage in the early going, averaging nearly eight yards per carry on the ground and looking very spry in doing so. He was barreling over defenders right up the gut and looked well on his way to a huge game. But a hit to the knee courtesy of a Charger defender knocked him from the contest prior to halftime, and he would not return. He was quoted after the game as saying he didn't think it was a serious injury, but we will update you during the week as to his status. For what it's worth, rookie Ronnie Hillman filled in for McGahee and was far less effective, picking up 43 yards on 12 carries (3.6 YPC) -- with 40 of those yards coming on two runs.

WR Brandon Stokley, Rec: 4 - 55 - 1 (5 targets)

Stokley was the surprise leading receiver on the day for Denver, catching three forgettable passes for 24 yards on the field of play but also adding a huge touchdown grab late in the first half to put the Broncos up by ten. He slipped behind the defense after a gorgeous pump fake by QB Peyton Manning, and the quarterback easily found him for a wide open touchdown when both defensive backs bit on the fake. It was one of the easier scores Stokley will ever have.

WR Demaryius Thomas, Rec: 3 - 42 - 1 (9 targets)

Thomas caught just three passes in the game, but one was a highlight-reel touchdown grab. QB Peyton Manning put some air under a pass over the head of Thomas, who not only adjusted to the ball and made the grab, but also did a fantastic job of dragging his back foot across the grass to remain inbounds. It was initially ruled out of bounds, but changed to a touchdown after review. Thomas nearly added a second touchdown on another end zone fade in the corner, but there was a bit too much air under that one. He was also the target of a deep ball near the end zone on a floater from Manning earlier. Thomas made an adjustment on the ball and it seemed like he was going to get to it, but the pass fell harmlessly incomplete. The Broncos really spread the wealth around in this game, with no receiver catching more than four passes while eight guys caught at least two or more balls.

WR Eric Decker, Rec: 2 - 23 - 1 (5 targets)

Decker had limited activity in the game, but that was kind of a function of the Denver passing game more than Decker himself. Eight different players caught at least two passes in the game, and no one caught more than four. His first reception didn't even come until eleven minutes remained in the third quarter, and it ended up being a 3-yard grab that came up short of the first down marker. But QB Peyton Manning would not let a game pass with Decker putting up such a meager stat line, so he found the receiver over the middle midway through the third quarter. Decker hauled in the ball around the 10-yard line, streaked up the middle untouched, and dove through a defender at the goal line and into the end zone for the score. 

TE Jacob Tamme, Rec: 4 - 53 - 0 (5 targets)

Tamme was having a relatively quiet game until late in the contest. He caught a big third down conversion off an inside slant to pick up a first down, showing Peyton Manning's propensity to trust him in a big spot. He later added a huge 31-yard grab down the seam on third down and 18 to keep the chains moving and run the clock down. That drive eventually led to a field goal that made it a two touchdown lead for Denver, and put the game out of reach. Tamme could have had a much bigger game, but Manning barely overthrew him on a deep route down the sideline from their own 26-yard line. Tamme got a hand on it and appeared in position to be able to make the catch, but just couldn't bring it in.

TE Joel Dreessen, Rec: 4 - 28 - 0 (6 targets)

Dreessen provided a reliable outlet for Manning, with nothing going for more than 11 yards but also tying for the team lead in catches with four. His best play was a short catch near the sideline where the defender tried drilling him out of bounds. Instead, Dreessen simply bounced off of the arm tackle attempt and kept moving forward to pick up the first down.