Denver passes out defensive clinic against Chargers

CARSON, CA (News4usonline) – The doggone Denver Broncos had the nerve to show up Sunday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park and ruin the party for everybody. Yes, these are the same Denver Broncos that entered their AFC West Division matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers sporting an 0-4 record.

Surprising to many, the Broncos decided to announce to the world that they are still a team to be reckoned with, especially on defense. The Chargers picked up the memo a little late. That Melvin Gordon III season-debut party got rained on by a swarming Denver defense that held the two-time Pro Bowl running back to just 31 yards on 12 carries in his return game.

“We played better up front, so there was a little less room,” Denver coach Vic Fangio said about his defense being able to contain Gordon.

The story line for the Chargers this week was getting Gordon back on the field against the Broncos. It’s been a while. The last time Gordon ran the football for the Chargers in a meaningful game was last year in a road defeat to the New England Patriots in an AFC semifinal playoff game.

October 6, 2019 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) looking to create havoc on the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC West Division matchup played at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Broncos defeated the Chargers, 20-13.

Fast forward to 2019. Gordon missed training training camp, the entire preseason and the first three games of the regular season this year because he reportedly wanted a new contract deal. That didn’t happen, so Gordon decided to come back. Gordon talked about getting back on the field and what it felt like adjusting mentally after taking that first hit, something he hasn’t done since last year.

“Physically, I was good,” Gordon said. “The first time I got hit, it’s different. You can’t emulate that no matter what you do. You kind of get the first hit and go, ‘Okay, that’s how it feels.’ You just have to get used to running, guys hitting you and stiff-arming. It’s just so different. Just getting back and adjusting things, but we’re definitely going up from here.”

The Broncos didn’t stop there. Denver kept the hit parade going, ruining the day for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw two interceptions during the game, including a directing one pass into the endzone that was picked off by Denver inside linebacker Alexander Johnson.

With Denver’s defensive ferocity seemingly picking up by each possession, Rivers and the Chargers could not get out of the way of themselves. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who finished the game with a team-high 15 receptions for 86 yards, said correcting these details revolves around one fundamental theme.

October 6, 2019 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon makes his 2019 NFL debut in an AFC West Division matchup against the Denver Broncos in a contest played at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Broncos defeated the Chargers, 20-13.

“It comes back to practice,” Ekeler said. “It’s cliché, but that’s the truth. It comes back to practice and you just have to lock in on your assignment on these plays. It’s a team game so everyone has to be clicking. One person just can’t carry the entire team. It literally comes back to practice.”

A pick in the endzone, a fumble at the goal line that turned out to be a touchback, a missed field goal, and other missed opportunities wound up costing the Chargers in their 20-13 defeat at home to the Broncos. In his opening statement to the media, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn did not mince words about what he saw out on the field.

“Sorry for keeping you good people waiting. Sorry for [having to watch] that damn game,” Lynn said. “If we play like that, we won’t beat anybody. That team came here desperate for a win, played hard, out-coached us and it was disappointing — but we have a resilient group, I think. We will see how we respond next week but that was disappointing. This press conference will be really short, to be honest with you.”

It took Rivers completing 32 of 48 pass attempts to gain 211 yards through the air. The Chargers run game was pretty much null and void with 35 yards on the ground. The Broncos defense had a lot to do that. Denver forced Los Angeles to settle for a pair of field goals and a punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter by Desmond King as their only means to score.

October 6, 2019 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Gone: Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries to help his team beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 20-13, at Dignity Health Sports Park.

“Defense played great,” said Denver running back Phillip Lindsay. “They are out there playing for each other. You guys saw it today. We have been through some tough games that didn’t go our way. We just have to keep pounding. They are going to rage on. This gives us some confidence and brings you together. We are a close group. If you were in our locker room, you would think we are 5-0 right now. That’s just how we are, and we understand we are family. Things don’t always go our way. But you keep chipping away and that’s in life. You can’t sit down and coddle yourself, your family needs you. You need to find a way to get through the stone and things will get better as you go.”

The Chargers struggled on the offensive end. As a unit, the Chargers were held without scoring a touchdown against the Broncos, a point not lost on Gordon.

“We just couldn’t get stuff going,” Gordon said. “What kind of frustrated me most was being inside the 20, being right at the goal line and not converting and making plays. That’s just not Chargers football. You know us, we get to the goal line. We’re licking our chops. We usually get in. We just weren’t successful with that today. [LB] Kyzir [White] gets an interception, and we get nothing out of that. That should be a guaranteed touchdown.”

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