The Denver Broncos nearly blew it. But thank to Shelby Harris’ field-goal block in the final seconds, they avoided a humiliating collapse and hung on for a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Charges in Week 1.
Denver got a good performance from C.J. Anderson, its run defense and some solid contributions from its tight ends.
Here’s a look at the win by the numbers.
C.J. Anderson rushed for 81 yards on 20 carries. Anderson, who missed the final nine games of the 2016 season, looked explosive operating in Mike McCoy’s new offense.
The Broncos are a better team when he’s healthy and in the lineup. They’re 11-1 in regular-season games where Anderson rushes for 80 yards or more since the start of 2013 and 33-10 in games where he’s active. Denver needs him to stay healthy to be the best version of itself.
The Broncos’ defense finished as football’s top-rated unit last season — at least according to Football Outsiders — even though it struggled to stop the run. Denver, which FO rated as the No. 21 run defense, allowed 4.3 yards per carry in 2016.
On Monday, the Broncos limited Los Angeles to well below that mark. The Chargers finished with 64 rushing yards on 20 carries — a 2.9 yards per carry average. Denver bottled up Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver. Gordon’s gonna feel this one when he wakes up today.
The Broncos have two of the best receivers in football in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Denver sometimes struggled, though, to get pass-catching contributions from others a season ago.
In Week 1, a trio of Broncos tight ends stepped up to fill in some of the gaps. Virgil Green, A.J. Derby and Jeff Heurman combined for five catches and 98 receiving yards. Green’s 44-yard snag was one of the highlights of the night. He somehow came up with this ball.
The Chargers have lost 18 games by seven points or less since the start of 2015. Their record in one-score games dipped to 4-18 in the last three years following Monday’s loss. No team in football has been as bad in close games as them. Typically, when a team has a poor record in one-score games one season, they tend to have a good record in one-score games the following season. The tide has yet to turn for the Chargers, however.
The Broncos have won 176 of the games they’ve led by 17 points or more entering the fourth quarter. They’ve tied one of them. They’ve never lost.
Harris’ field-goal block let Denver remain unblemished in games where it had a 17-point lead or more with 15 minutes to go. Losing Monday would’ve been an all-time collapse. Instead, Denver escaped with a win. And good thing for the Broncos’ playoff hopes. Have you seen the upcoming schedule?
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