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Denver's Biggest Flaw Is Lack Of A Killer Instinct

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Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Talk about deja vu: Chargers-Broncos had some eerie similarities to Saturday’s Saints-Seahawks tilt.

The home team stifled the visitor for three quarters, with their defenses keeping them in the game. Both games verged on blowouts, and veered another way. Both opposing quarterbacks got hot at the end. In this game, Philip Rivers found Keenan Allen over and over. Both road teams recovered onsides kicks when good-hands guys muffed the ball. (Nick Novack’s kick was high and well-done, while the Saints were mostly lucky.)

In the end, the home teams were able to hold on to sizable leads. Finally, the winners were exposed.

Denver fans, out in force and louder than usual, had to be nervous at the end as the Chargers got to within one touchdown. 

It was one year ago when the Broncos blew a late lead to the Ravens. One month ago, Denver lost at home to the Chargers.

This team has problems closing games. It was a turnabout from the beginning, when the Denver defense dominated the game early. Just as Drew Brees had few passing yards early, Rivers had underwhelming numbers at halftime. Both guys heated it up at the end of the game.

Let’s remember the New England-Denver game back in Foxboro during the regular season. The Broncos had a 23-0 halftime lead, and the Patriots came back to win.

The Broncos have to be worried even if they are at home. 

Here’s what the game left me with: 

*That was a monstrous home-field advantage in the first half. The Denver defense played with a lot of intensity, and the fans made it tough for the Chargers offense. Rivers was visibly frustrated, and San Diego players were having trouble hearing.

*The Chargers needed more creative playcalling early. Once they got going, they were unstoppable. So why didn’t they stop running the ball early? The Chargers were in third-and-long situations the first three quarters. 

*Denver’s pass defense is vulnerable. This is not a team good at holding leads, and the secondary is leaky. Quentin Jammer was embarrassed by Allen on the fourth-and-long play that went for 49. Allen roamed at will in the fourth quarter. He caught six passes for 142 yards and scored twice. 

*Once again injuries played a huge part in the final outcome. Like the Chiefs a week ago, the Chargers were depleted. The Chiefs lost their top two running backs and a cornerback. The Chargers had a couple of safeties banged up. That’s a problem against a Peyton Manning-led team. They were also able to use Ryan Mathews for only a few plays, and that hurt their running game.

*I think the CBS main broadcasting team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz is much better than Fox’s team of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. Aikman specializes in the obvious, and he and Buck don’t play off each other well. Simms had some great analysis, and he and Nantz are a much better team. I can think of at least one Fox team better than Aikman and Buck. Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa and Kenny Albert are informative and entertaining. I enjoy listening to their broadcasts. I find myself bored by Buck and Aikman.

*I hope you caught Manning’s post-game interview. The guy’s not just a great quarterback. He’s glib, articulate and funny. He talked about how much he was thinking about getting a beer in his mouth. (He even mentioned the brand of beer he drinks, Bud Light. Is he angling to be in a Bud Light commercial? I have to say, Peyton, that you can do better than that.)

*I think the Chargers will be back to the playoffs again. They played well, but I didn’t like their game plan. This is a talented team that got into a rhythm late in the year. 

*If I’m the Patriots, I like my chances next week. They’re playing well now. They had a relatively easy win over the Colts. They can outscore the Broncos if they play well. That should be a high-scoring game.

*Now, of course, everyone will talk about Manning vs. Tom Brady. Yes, Brady’s gotten the better of him. But they’re missing the context: Brady’s been fortunate enough to have a great coach -- and the same great coach -- for his entire career. Manning’s been on different teams and had several coaches, none of whom is a Hall of Famer.

*So after the wackiness of Wild Card weekend, we end up with the four best teams. You have two great matchups. The games should be close. What a weekend that will be.