The Broncos flew to Los Angeles hopeful to keep their playoff hopes alive but left SoFi Stadium on the outside of the postseason window which for them is now locked shut.
The Chargers, who were playing for their own playoff chances, were ready and dominated an already wounded Denver Broncos team whose locker room had been overrun by COVID.
It was an unfortunate outcome for a team that still had something to play for so late in the season. The Broncos haven’t had a meaningful game so late in the season for years now, but the loss has now ushered them into talks of “what could have been” instead of week 18 relevancy.
Best Offensive Performance- Garett Bolles- 83.0 (6th of 79 offensive tackles)
If there was one positive take away from the staggering loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Garett Bolles is easily at the top of the list.
With a Pro Bowl pass rusher like Joey Bosa on the other side of the ball, the fact that he was stonewalled with zero sacks is a testament to Bolles’ grittiness and effectiveness. On more than one occasion Bolles put a grown man on the ground.
Great job by Garett Bolles to take care of Joey Bosa after he got a good jump.
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) January 2, 2022
With a blocking grade of 90.5 he was the top graded offensive tackle in football and continues to be a force on the outside and a true building block for this Denver Broncos team moving into the future. In the run blocking game Bolles wasn’t perfect but he put forth a valiant effort regardless of the overall ineffectiveness of the rushing attack.
In a game where bad play was as evident as Semi truck on a NASCAR track, it was refreshing to have one of the vocal team leaders dominate play.
Worst Offensive Performance- Lloyd Cushenberry- 52.8 (33rd of 35 centers)
It seems as though Lloyd Cushenberry ends up slotted, not just as the worst offensive lineman game-to-game but as the lowest graded starter according to PFF more often than not.
Now, there are factors that may have played a part in Cushenberry’s poor play, the foremost of those being his late reactivation from the health and safety protocol and a heavily modified week due to the rampant positive COVID tests in the building. Though, at this point in the season excuses are hard to stomach.
Broncos activate C Lloyd Cushenberry III, place three active roster players on Reserve/COVID-19 list – https://t.co/fKfoPXZQQO
— 103.1 and 1310 KFKA (@1310_KFKA) December 30, 2021
Against a team that saw Rex Burkhead rush all over them last week, the Broncos offensive line should have had a heyday. They should have pushed the Chargers front back on their heels and create lane for their running backs. Instead, they were punished and pushed around by the underwhelming front of the Chargers.
Cushenberry has improved from last year to this year, but it may not be enough to keep the front office from looking for more competition at the center position.
Best Defensive Performance- Micah Kiser- 90.9 ( t-4th of 107 linebackers)
Micah Kiser was a tackling machine against the Chargers on Sunday. Los Angeles has a very talented backfield with the lies of Austin Eckler, Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson and they and they had their moments, but Kiser seemed to be around the ball all day recording 12 tackles on the day, the same amount as fellow linebacker Jonas Griffith.
Micah Kiser had a huge game against the Chargers 🐴
🔸 90.9 PFF Grade (t-4th among LBs in Week 17)
🔸 90.7 Run Defense Grade (1st) pic.twitter.com/mvpdrqc0PH
— PFF DEN Broncos (@PFF_Broncos) January 4, 2022
Kiser was thrust into a starting role as Baron Browning was forced to enter health and safety protocol leading up to game day. Browning has been playing very solidly in his rookie season but with Kiser filling in, he was hardly missed. That’s not to say he is a superior player than Browning, but it may be a glimpse at a level of depth this linebacker unit possesses that was unknown previously.
Micah Kiser did get a start early in the season versus the Browns and was run all over by D’Ernest Johnson, but perhaps this showing was enough of a redemption to earn him a place on this team moving forward.
Worst Defensive Performance- Aaron Patrick- 37.1 (122nd of 128 edges)
This is what happens when COVID strikes. Teams are forced to start inexperienced players in meaningful games entering the final sprint of the regular season. It’s a shame but this is the world we live in now. We are at the point where even playoff games could be affected by the pandemic.
Aaron Patrick was one such player forced into a starting role when Bradley Chubb was deemed out due to COVID and it went poorly.
I just saw Slater's pancake on Aaron Patrick on that 4th quarter Anderson screen and I have no idea how I missed that live. That was huge
— Herbert for MVP (@LA_BoltUp) January 3, 2022
Having shown spirit and skill on the Broncos special teams unit, Patrick seemed like he could be a strong emergency backup, but his lack of experience reared its head, and he was unable to log any meaningful plays against the division rival Chargers.
It’s unfortunate many of these young players are being thrown into rotations with hardly any notice nowadays but, again, this is the world we live in. And there is a chance that more third- and fourth-string players see more time this week.