Week 7: Three takeaways as Broncos shut out by Chargers

Pathetic offense strikes again

If the loss to the New York Giants a week ago was embarrassing, the meltdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson was something far worse. It was pathetic. Zero points from 13 drives and just 12 first downs and one trip to the red zone. Three more turnovers on offense. An offensive line that can’t block. Five sacks on Trevor Siemian. Two fumbles, one lost. The loss snapped a 394-game scoring streak that extended 25 years to a 24-0 defeat against the Los Angeles Raiders at the Coliseum in 1992.

Again, Siemian was guilty of holding on to the ball too long. His decision-making, which helped him win the starting job in preseason, was questionable.

Yes, the Chargers have three great pass rushers, including elite duo Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but the ball wasn’t coming out quick enough. The Chargers also had the second worst run defense going into the game, yet the Broncos abandoned the run game early again despite CJ Anderson making some ground.

With the trade deadline looming on October 31, the Broncos need to take a good, long look at what they can do to improve the offensive line, and if they need to make a change at quarterback.

The declivity is too severe to do nothing. Donald Stephenson has a torn calf. Menelik Watson has a strained calf, although could be back for the trip to Kansas City. Neither right tackle should be expected to be available in the immediate future and Allen Barbre isn’t a long-term solution.

The grace period for Siemian is over. He’s had a bad offensive line for most of his NFL and continues to struggle. Without some big changes, the Broncos don’t look like being a playoff team anytime soon, and the fans patience—indeed that of the Broncos’ elite defense—will quickly wear thin.
Next week, the mid-way point in the season, should be the last-chance saloon for Siemian to prove he is capable of being this team’s leader. If he can’t show dramatic improvement, it’s time to explore other options with Brock Osweiler ready to go, and Paxton Lynch close to being healthy again.

Siemian fumbles again as the Broncos struggle

Turnover differential

Domata Peko was again a beast up front for the Broncos defense and bagged a sack of Philip Rivers, while Von Miller weighed in with a pair of sacks to take his tally for the season to seven.

The defense held Rivers and the Chargers to 263 total yards and two scores, which should be enough to win games with an offense that can score points. The difference this season is the lack of turnovers for the Broncos defense.

In the last two games, the Broncos’ turnover differential is -6 with the offense turning over the ball three times in successive games.

While the Broncos again have the number one defense in football, they aren’t getting the turnovers to give the offense good field position or help out in the scoring stakes, but the Broncos shouldn’t have to rely on a defense creating turnovers to win games.

The defense is giving up an average of 19.7 points a game, but the offense is scoring just 18, the 24th best in the NFL, and when you take out the outlying 42-17 win over Dallas that number slips to just 12, a total that will win very few football games.

Coaching leaves some questions

It’s difficult to hate on Vance Joseph. He seems like a pretty chill dude, a passionate football man, a rookie head coach who is still learning and doesn’t always show his emotions, but he aside from cliches can be elusive in postgame pressers when he should be fronting up more and offering solutions.

We know a shutout is unacceptable, but the gameplan is on him and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The decision to abandon the run game against the second worst run defense despite being—as he kept pointing out —two scores down is on him. Naming Siemian the season-long starting quarterback and stubbornly sticking to that is on him.

While all of the offensive woes can’t be dumped on him, or indeed Siemian, those that can be mitigated certainly can. Joseph mentioned in his postgame presser that the Broncos need to play and coach better. That much is obvious, but right now it’s difficult to believe that’s going to happen any time soon.

The Broncos are 3-3 through seven weeks, but could easily be 2-4 had the Chargers not stalled in week one, but they could be 5-1 if the offense had turned up against the Giants and Chargers in weeks six and seven.

Right now, only the defense is playoff worthy. The offense, special teams and coaching stinks. On what we’ve seen through the last three weeks, the Broncos could be drafting in the top 10 in 2018, and should seriously start thinking about finding a franchise quarterback for next season through free agency.

Bring on Brockvember

As bad as this game was for the offense, it has been largely woeful all season other than the Dallas game. Every drive appears a struggle regardless of the defense.

While the loss of Watson, Stephenson and Billy Turner to the right side of the line was a blow, the offense was still anaemic as it was when they were in there.

By the time the Broncos land back in Denver from Philadelphia at the end of this three-game road stretch, they’ll have had plenty time to break down the film on Siemian’s performance.

Siemian struggles on the road and is uncomfortable when the run game isn’t going. The stats prove the former, the head coach admitted the latter, and the film confirms both. That isn’t mitigation to keep going with a guy who still isn’t progressing anywhere near as much as the Broncos need.

And, besides, StubHub Center holds 27,000 people, the majority in attendance on Sunday were Broncos fans. At least the weather was nice. It won’t be so nice at Arrowhead or Lincoln Financial Field.

If the Broncos are 3-5 going into the New England game, a change at quarterback needs to happen, or, if the offense continues to be as poor as it has been in recent weeks, Brock Osweiler has to come in. He may not be a long-term starter in Denver, but he’s more comfortable scrambling and making plays under duress than Siemian seems to be. He’s also capable of throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield, while Siemian appears stuck making short throws behind or just beyond the line of scrimmage.

The Broncos aren’t quite the Cleveland Browns, but even the worst team in the NFL is outscoring the Broncos right now. Their head coach Hue Jackson isn’t much a fan of his young quarterbacks turning over the ball, evident by DeShone Kizer being benched twice this season and Kevin Hogan losing the starting job a week after winning it.

If future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning can be benched by the Broncos in 2015, then Siemian should be too. Better yet, just give Osweiler the chance from the start. It can’t be any worse than what our Siemian-led offense is doing.

About Paul Thomas 214 Articles
Paul is one of Broncos Europe's main contributors, based in London, England. When not providing us with the latest Denver Broncos news, he can be found in a sports bar watching any sport. A long-time Broncos fan, he tries to forget many of the bad pre-Manning years.

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