CARSON, CA-Pitching a shutout in the National Football League is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. It does not happen very often. The latest recipient of being blanked out from the scoreboard happened to be a team who is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense: the Denver Broncos.
Karma comes around sooner or later. And it just came back to bite the Broncos in the form of a humbling 21-0 road defeat, courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at StubHub Center in Carson.
“It was a good game by the defense,” said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. “No doubt about it. What they did, when they stepped up and stopped the run. We knew they were going to try to run the football on us. With our stats and what we were giving up in the rush and what they were gaining, we stepped up. My guys worked on it all week. It was emphasized. They did their job.”
The Chargers did their job by whitewashing the running game altogether, harassing the quarterback, and locking up wide receivers, which sound a lot like something out of the Denver playbook the past couple of seasons.
It would be the Chargers inflicting the pain this time around. A missed field goal at the end of regulation was the only thing that separated the Chargers and the Broncos the last time these two teams met. The Chargers lost that Monday Night Football contest. Payback for the Broncos came into fruition in the worst way.
Up until this victory by the Chargers, the Broncos had won 11 of the last 13 meetings between the two AFC West Division opponents. In winning their third straight game, the Chargers gave the Broncos a dose of their own defensive medicine. The do and accomplish list from Sunday’s victory is impressive.
First, the Chargers stopped Denver’s rushing attack right in its track-to the tune of holding the Broncos to just 69 yards on the ground. Winning the turnover battle was another small victory for the home team as the Chargers forced two fumbles and picked off a Trevor Siemian pass.
“All I knew in the beginning of this game was that we were planning on rushing them,” linebacker Melvin Ingram said. “We were stopping the runs.”
Siemian’s interception, at the hands of Casey Hayward in the fourth quarter, was the end to a brutal day Denver’s quarterback was forced to endure. That one pick could have easily been three or four interceptions had Chargers defenders held on to a couple of Siemian’s misguided passes.
Throwing picks wasn’t the only problem Siemian had to worry about. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa was all up in Siemian’s grill all afternoon. The dynamic duo helped lead the Chargers’ sack parade on Siemian as L.A. recorded five sacks of the Denver signal-caller.
“It feels great to shutout any team, so that’s a cherry on top,” Bosa said. “Just the way our whole team played, special teams, offense, and defense, especially our defense, that was a lot of fun.”
For the second consecutive week, the Chargers played like rough riders. The Broncos, led by their mercurial star Von Miller, are used to doing the defensive bullying to other people, harnessing havoc on quarterbacks and dropping intimidation all over the football field.
Getting physical has been the Broncos calling card for the last couple of seasons. Their aggressive play on the defensive side of the ball was even good enough to help Denver win the Super Bowl 50. The Chargers would have not none of Denver’s celebratory antics on their field.
That’s because the Chargers defense is starting to become what Lynn wants it to be. That’s physical, hard-hitting and sound fundamentally. That wasn’t the case last year. The Chargers defense gave up 30 points or more in seven games during the 2016 NFL regular season.
The Chargers’ defensive unit has not allowed any offense to reach or crack the 30-point code this season. The Chargers shutout of the Broncos is the team’s first since holding the New York Jets scoreless in 2014.
“Honestly, we just came to do our job,” said Chargers defensive back Tre Boston. “When they don’t score, we win. So, to come out there and dominate on defense, it was a great feeling. It was something that this defense was waiting for. We knew what we were capable of. It was a good win going into next week looking at Tom Brady.”
With the way their defense has been playing of late, the Chargers offense, instead of putting the load all on Philip Rivers’ right arm, have the luxury of scoring at a methodical pace.
Rivers only threw for 183 yards against the Broncos, but his two touchdown passes, including a 42-yard score in the fourth quarter to Travis Benjamin to seal the game, was more than enough offense to send Denver back home with its third loss of the season.
“It was a great win,” Rivers said. “A great win.”
While it was a great win for the Chargers, being held scoreless against a division rival was a tough pill to swallow for the Broncos. Miller is not ready to be casting blame on his offensive teammates, though he did acknowledge it was not a good look for his team to not have any points on the scoreboard.
“We are all close,” Miller said. “We are all brothers in there. It’s tough when you don’t put up any points. It’s terrible. Organizationally, when you look at the scoreboard and see a big goose egg, it’s terrible. But we are not going to point fingers. We could have gotten a turnover. Aqib Talib is a pick-six machine. I am a sack machine. We have guys over there that create turnovers. We are just not doing it. I figure if we can do that, it will alleviate some of the tension.”