What we learned from the Chargers’ 23-9 win over Denver
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa sacks Broncos quarterback Case Keenum during a second quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Desmond King Jr. knocks the ball from Broncos running back Royce Freeman, causing a fumble that teammate Kyle Emmanuel returned for a touchdown at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon runs for a 19-yard gain that was nullified by a holding penalty on tight end Virgil Green (88) on a third quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams is twisted down by Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom after a short gain during a third-quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams pulls in a three-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, beating Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom in the third quarter at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Denver cornerback Isaac Yiadom intercepts a Philip Rivers pass intended for receiver Tyrell Williams in the first quarter at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler makes a cut for a 41-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Broncos.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is tackled by Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris after a two-yard gain during the fourth quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams is tackled by Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom after a 14-yard pass reception during a fourth quarter drive.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. celebrates with teammate Desmond King Jr. (left) after a 100-yard interception return on a two-point conversion attempt.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe knocks down a pass during the first quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., steps in front of Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton to intercept a two-point conversion attempt. Hayward returned it 100 yards, giving the Chargers two points.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos receiver Tim Patrick can’t hold on to a pass as Chargers cornerback Micheal Davis delivers a blow during third quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos quarterback Case Keenum fumbles a snap from center Conor McGovern during the third quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa dances after sacking Broncos quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers defensive backs Casey Hayward Jr. (right) Jahleel Addae and Adrian Phillips take the field for warmups before taking on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers fans line up for Joey Bosa during pregame warmups at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Here’s what we learned from the Chargers’ 23-9 victory Sunday over Denver:
The offense is broken and needs fixing
Over the past two games, the Chargers have had 24 possessions, half of which have ended in punts. They’ve also turned the ball over six times with four interceptions and two fumbles. Twice the clock ran out. They’ve scored three touchdowns and kicked one field goal on the four possessions that have netted points. Scoring 16.7% of the time on offense won’t make for a very long playoff run. “I think the challenge we had throughout the week was to come out here and execute,” left tackle Russell Okung said. “We weren’t doing that early. I think as the game went on and we settled in, we were able to sort of put a drive together.” The Chargers have picked up more than two first downs on only three of those 24 series.
Philip Rivers is a bit off at the moment
After being career-best efficient for 13 games, the Chargers quarterback has thrown six interceptions — half his total for the season — over the past three weeks. Both of Rivers’ picks Sunday were not terribly difficult plays for the defenders. The Chargers’ offense thrived while taking care of the ball for so long to open the season. That form will have to return for this team to enjoy any playoff success.
“It’s not as good as we want to play,” Rivers said. “I don’t see any pattern. I don’t really buy into patterns or momentums in the games. It hasn’t been as good. I think you look at our collective body of work this year and it’s been good enough to win 12 games.”
The offense owes the defense a couple now
The Chargers again avoided losing consecutive games, something that hasn’t happened since early last season. But, for the second game in a row, the offense failed to equal the defense’s level of performance. In fact, when cornerback Casey Hayward returned a two-point conversion attempt 102 yards for two points Sunday, the defense and offense each had scored eight points apiece on the day. In the previous game against the Ravens, the defense limited Baltimore’s offense to 16 points. “I think when the other team scores 16, we should never lose,” Rivers said. “That’s kind of how I’ve always thought. And that happened, what, eight days ago, seven days ago? So (I) definitely feel like we’re responsible for that one.”
Austin Ekeler appears to be fine
Lost in the offense’s general slumber was the successful return of the Chargers’ No. 2 running back and, perhaps, No. 1 spark plug on offense. Ekeler ran eight times for a team-high 58 yards, 41 of which came on one fourth-quarter carry. He was targeted once in the passing game but had no receptions. Ekeler missed the previous two games because of a bruised nerve in his neck suffered late in the Chargers’ victory over Cincinnati. His availability Sunday will give Rivers an option that he didn’t have in struggling against Baltimore during the Week 16 loss at StubHub Center.
The Chargers, at least publicly, want the Ravens rematch
Despite losing 22-10 and being pushed around a decent amount Dec. 22, the Chargers claimed afterward Sunday they welcomed another shot at Baltimore. “I do look forward to playing the Ravens again, with the defense that they have,” tight end Virgil Green said. “I feel like there are a lot of things that we could have done better. But they played well.” Said defensive lineman Damion Square: “We just didn’t finish the game. This time, we got to finish. It’s just that simple. You gotta go stop [No.] 8 [quarterback Lamar Jackson]. You gotta get your hands up. You gotta tackle. Gotta get guys on the ground, and the offense has to control the clock, period.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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