Chargers Get A Shutout In Their Best Game
October 26, 2017
What a difference three weeks can make! Three weeks ago, after a 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn was describing another close loss that put the Chargers at 0-4.
"We have to tackle when we are in position to make a play. We haven't made a play on special teams that's helped us win a game yet." The frustration in his voice was palpable.
Well, that was then, this is now. On Sunday the Chargers got outstanding performances from both their defense and their special teams in route to a stunning 21-0 shutout of the Denver Broncos at the Stub Hub Center in Carson. The victory was the third straight for the suddenly resurgent Chargers.
The results were stunning when considering the fact that Denver had not been shut out in a game since 1992 and because the Chargers performed so well. It was easily the most complete game the Chargers had played this season under Coach Lynn and showed the potential they have to be a good NFL team.
As Charger quarterback Philip Rivers stated after the game: "Coach Lynn challenged us this week about all three phases and what he wanted out of all three phases. You get a touchdown on the punt return. Drew punted unbelievable. We were great covering the kicks."
Punter Drew Kaser had three punts of 60 yards or more, including a 69-yard kick that was downed on the one-yard line in the third quarter. Kaser also had a 56-yard punt and three kicks inside the Broncos 20- yard line. The kickoff coverage got the team started early. Two kickoffs in the opening quarter got starting field positions of the 9-yard line and the 16-yard line for the Broncos offense.
Two first quarter kickoffs left the Broncos' offense starting at their own nine yard line and their own sixteen yard line. The Chargers controlled field position throughout the first three quarters of the game and for a struggling Denver offense that was too much to overcome. The Bronco offense had scored only three touchdowns in the previous three games.
The second offensive drive of the Broncos stalled at their own 19-yard line. Bronco punter Riley Dixon's kick was a low line drive that was fielded at the Charger 35-yard line by Travis Benjamin. The speedy Charger punt returner found a huge hole in the middle of the punt return defense and returned the punt untouched for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Chargers an early 7-0 lead.
A terrific special teams play for the Chargers that the Broncos would never overcome. It was the fourth career punt return for a touchdown for Benjamin and his first as a Charger. The special teams got the Charger party started and the defense finished the festivities.
The Charger defense had five sacks, with two coming from Joey Bosa, two from Chris McCain and one from Melvin Ingram. Denver Bronco quarterback Trevor Siemian had a rough day. Besides the five sacks, Siemian had a pass intercepted, lost a fumble and took one of those career hits from Melvin Ingram that looked to be a sack but was ruled a roughing the passer penalty. A debatable call, but either way, a play Siemian will not soon forget.
The improvement in the defense could really be seen against the Bronco running attack. The Chargers had their best game defensively against the run on Sunday. The Chargers held the Broncos to 69 yards rushing on 19 carries. This was the first game that the Charger defense held the opposing teams' running attack to under 100 yards. The tackling was better.
As Coach Lynn stated after the game: "The run defense got better," Lynn added. "I love my two edge rushers (Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa). But today, what I liked about them is that they played the run better. Sometimes it's hard to stop the run when you're trying to sack the quarterback, and unselfishly, they played the run. They're playing tighter techniques to stop the run and they're doing it for the team."
On offense, the Chargers did what they had to do against the #1 ranked defense in the NFL. Rivers threw for two touchdowns, one to Austin Ekeler from one-yard out and the other a 42-yard touchdown catch-and-run to Travis Benjamin in the fourth quarter. Benjamin was the clear star of the day for the Chargers.
There was one series of plays that did not go well for the Chargers. That came early in the game on a first quarter after the Chargers had put themselves in a great position with a first-and-goal at the Broncos one-yard line. Four consecutive runs up the middle by Charger running back Melvin Gordon failed to find the end zone and the Chargers gave the ball up on downs.
This series did not sit well with Coach Lynn. "That was absolutely terrible. Anytime we have the ball on the one-yard line and I give it to my back four times in a row and we don't get it in, that's awful. I don't give a damn what (the) offensive line does or fullback, I put it on the back."
Over the past three weeks the Chargers have been the best team in the AFC West. They are 3-0 in this period. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders were both 1-2 the past three weeks and the Broncos 0-2. This week will bring another challenge. The Chargers will visit Foxboro to play the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
The Patriots have the #1 ranked offense in the NFL. They are a difficult team to prepare for because they change from week-to-week. But the Chargers should be up to this challenge. As Hall of Fame NFL Coach Marv Levy once said: "The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender."
That seems to be the Chargers these days. Win or lose, every game is close, and they don't quit. This game should be another entertaining matchup.