It was a wild one, but once again the Denver Broncos emerged victorious and showcased their high-end NFL talent in the process.
The win also keeps their playoff hopes alive with a primetime matchup with the Chiefs up next.
Who starred in today’s performance and who almost cost the team the game? Let’s look.
Patrick Surtain II
Wow! What a performance from the Broncos’ rookie cornerback.
Rookie cornerbacks are not supposed to look this good in their first season, and Broncos Country should be tremendously excited for that exact reason. Not only is Patrick Surtain II’s ceiling that of a player who could one day be the very best at his position, but we are already seeing that his floor is remarkably high too.
The first half was fine for Surtain, though he was beat multiple times, but there was nothing too defining about his performance overall. However, in the second half, he was the undeniable team MVP.
With the Chargers driving deep into Broncos’ territory to tie the game up at 14, Surtain intercepted Justin Herbert in the endzone to swing the momentum back in Denver’s favor. Drew Lock nearly lost the game singlehandedly, and Surtain seemed to save it singlehandedly.
Surtain II's second INT of the season! #BroncosCountry
— NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2021
After Surtain’s interception, Denver’s offense showed life and marched down the field to extend their lead to 14.
On the very next drive, Surtain came up with yet another massive interception, though this time it came off a tip and was returned for a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2021
On the drive after that, Surtain broke up the two-point conversion attempt in the endzone, saving the team two more points.
Surtain leads all rookies in EPA (expected points added) when targeted this season and ranks fourth among all defensive backs (-21.7 EPA), per NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
Surtain has the makings to be a game-changing player at a premium position, and one could argue he already is one.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon led the way for the Broncos on offense today, and that often ends with a good result for Broncos Country.
It was repeated ad nauseam all week long that the Chargers’ run defense was atrocious and that the Broncos should take advantage of it early and often. Fortunately, they did, and they were rewarded for it.
Melvin Gordon led the way on the ground with 83 yards on 17 attempts, and that total would have been even higher had he not missed some time with an injury. Gordon once again got revenge against his former team, but for the first time, he got to savor it in front of a live crowd.
However, the real star of the day out of the backfield was Williams. Although his yards-per-carry average (3.9) was mildly troublesome, he had carries where he showed development with his vision and patience, the two areas of his game seemingly holding him back from superstardom. Most importantly though, he scored a really nice touchdown on a thrid-and-nine run near the goal line, which helped keep the offense afloat while Lock attempted to throw the game away.
Surprisingly though, his biggest contributions came through the air, as he was the team’s leading receiver in terms of both yardage and receptions (three receptions for 57 yards). That yardage came predominantly on a 42-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, where he caught the ball in the flat and made multiple Chargers miss on his way to set up a touchdown.
The duo also helped the Broncos put the game away with a series of strong runs to drain the clock.
The Broncos have themselves one of the best tandems in football.
Those who have spent the past several weeks — if not months — clamoring for Lock to replace Bridgewater finally got their wish on Sunday, but they were quickly reminded of just how nightmarish a quarterback Lock is.
After making a quick read on his first dropback for a nice gain, the wheels seemed to fall off entirely.
On his second dropback, he panicked and attempted to scramble for extra yardage, but immediately fumbled. Fortunately, the fumble was recovered by Tim Patrick, but it was also a turnover-worthy play, and a bad one at that.
On his second passing attempt of the game, he was late to find a wide-open Patrick in the endzone, allowing the defensive back to push the massive receiver out of bounds before his feet touched the turf.
That was bad, but it was quickly erased by a Williams’ mighty touchdown scamper.
Lock’s worst decision came right before the end of the half, with the Broncos driving and time expiring. After foolishly keeping the ball on a run-pass option, he scrambled out and forced a pass that was easily intercepted by the Los Angeles Chargers.
Up until that interception, the game was all Broncos. It felt reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys game, minus the quality quarterback play from either Bridgewater or Lock. With that one interception, the momentum of the game shifted entirely, and the Chargers were right back in it.
Fortunately, Bridgewater re-entered the game, and the train got back on the rails.
Bridgewater was rightfully blamed for a bad play against the Eagles that cost Denver the game, and potentially, the season. Lock should face the same scrutiny here, as one could make a strong argument that this back-breaking mistake could have been even worse.
Tackling is not necessarily a part of the quarterback’s job description. Avoiding back-breaking penalties is always part of the quarterback’s job description and Lock proved once again he is too incompetent to do that.
Outside of this one game though, that throw showed that Lock has made little-to-no development since the last time we’ve seen him. He hasn’t learned a thing in regard to protecting the football or making bad decisions. He’s the same old Lock, and that’s not good enough to start in the NFL.