If you’d ever like to feel totally humbled, cold, and alone, try to predict the outcome of an NFL football game through either betting or fantasy. Many a noble man has lost both his money and sanity through this pursuit.
Example: Wes Welker was missing from the Denver Broncos offense last night during their resounding stumble and 27-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers highlighted by 21 unanswered points, so the immediate conclusion was that Jacob Tamme would be the primary slot target. That thought was a not a random one, since Tamme was featured in all but one of the Broncos’ offensive snaps last week after Welker went down, catching four passes for 47 yards.
If he didn’t match that total, well, thems the breaks, because Jacob Tamme’s primary problem is that he’s still Jacob Tamme. But he’d still get opportunities, right? Ha. No, those all-important Peyton Manning slot looks went to Andre Caldwell, who led the Broncos in targets with 10.
But oh, it didn’t end there, as with the few plays and even less time of possession the Broncos had (more on that madness in a moment), Caldwell vacuumed back whatever fantasy life was left from an offense that never had much of it with two touchdowns and 59 yards during his mighty fine Welker impersonation. Prior to last night over 73 game appearances Caldwell had all of seven career touchdowns, and a per game average of 18.3 yards.
Caldwell’s random emergence was a matter of opportunity, and that goes beyond just Welker’s injury. The sample size of plays the Broncos offense had to do anything with was remarkably and obscenely small, so small that any boxscore watcher who didn’t see the game would be yelling bullsh*t from the highest peaks of Earth.
In total, an offense led by Manning ran just 56 plays, which was a sharp and drastic decline from the Broncos’ league leading average of 72.4 plays per game. Putting the microscope of shame (it’s real, and it’s patented) a little closer over this one, over the second and third quarters Denver ran 13 plays, in which they gained 13 yards. Hooray for symmetry?
I wasn’t aware that was possible for this Broncos offense against the best defense in football history, let alone the Chargers, a vaunted defensive unit that — even including last night’s stonewalling — is allowing 376.2 yards per game. That’s bad enough for 26th, and they’re particularly poor against the pass, allowing 8.3 yards per attempt and 267.4 per game.
Manning still compiled a decent yardage total (289) through his late-game chucking, but it mattered little. Mostly because of this, which will blow your mind into tiny fragments…
Broncos had gone 3-&-out just 23x in 168 possession coming into game (13.7%, lowest in NFL) …They’ve gone 3-&-out on 3 consecutive drives.
— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) December 13, 2013
That’s what led to the aforementioned nuts play count, though the Broncos’ defense and its inability to get off the field without doing something stupid played its part. That list grew lengthy, but it’s highlighted by two penalties for having 12 men on the field, and even more notably, an offside call on a Chargers punt from their own seven-yard line early in the second quarter that would have provided Manning with great field position, and gimmie points.
Toss in a crucial pass interference penalty when Manning could have been given the ball back only three plays after his second touchdown pass to Caldwell to make it a one-score game, and the responsibility for a game in which the Broncos appeared shockingly overwhelmed at home is split even. Manning certainly deserves his share of blame, especially for a game squashing fourth-quarter interception. The Broncos offense was held to a season low in points (20) while halting their record streak of 18 straight games with 25 points or more, and lows in total yards and passing yards. The total yards was the most staggering low, with the Broncos held to only 295 offensive yards, which was several time zones away from their season average of 453.4. Try to comprehend this: in the second quarter the Chargers had 106 offensive yards, while Denver had -4. For real.
But then the offensive line which allowed Corey Liuget to continually get pressure deserves a pointy finger too, as he eventually caused that interception, and Manning was sacked for the first time in 126 drop backs. And although Manning couldn’t stay on the field, a defense which was continually exposed and gashed by Ryan Mathews and his season high 127 rushing yards couldn’t get off it either (showing what a healthy Mathews looks like, he joins LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson as one of only three backs with five +100 yard games, and he’s now over 1,000 rushing yards for the season).
Those two deficiencies combined for perhaps the most damning stat of the evening: a one-sided time of possession which favored the Chargers, 38:49 to 21:11. Generally, it’s hard score points when your offense doesn’t have the ball.
More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
Let’s just give Keenan Allen the offensive rookie of the year award now
In both fantasy and reality, Keenan Allen dropped and was drafted at a steep bargain price because of injury concerns after knee problems plagued the conclusion of his collegiate career. In real life, he fell to the third round, well behind first-round receivers Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, and Cordarrelle Patterson, and overall he was the eighth receiver off the board.
Now he’s already broken the Chargers’ record for receptions by a rookie with his 63, and he’s only 72 yards shy of John Jefferson’s franchise rookie receiving yards record. Allen currently rests at 931 yards, so barring an injury he should easily pass Jefferson over the final two weeks.
Even more impressive, of his last five receptions, four of them have ended in touchdowns, and one looked like this.
Never change, Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers makes the best Philip Rivers faces.
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) December 13, 2013
Robert Griffin III was benched because he sucks, or something
Moving away from Thursday night’s stunner with some news you can use, according to Mike Silver it seems Robert Griffin III was benched for reasons that have little to do with his wonky knee.
What I reported on @nflnetwork TA Pregame: Sources say benching RG3 was a football decision based on poor performance…
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 13, 2013
Everyone loves some drama, and indeed that’s how dirt rag celebrity trash has sold so well to normal folk you want to feel better about their lives. But I’m already running out of things to say about the Griffin-Shanahan debacle, and I fear that even in January this will distract us from discussing playoff football.
To summarize: Silver’s report isn’t remotely surprising, because whether it’s to bail himself out and restore his reputation or to piss off Dan Snyder, Shanahan isn’t primarily concerned about his quarterback’s health here. If he was, Griffin would have been benched weeks ago.
Jed York is the best
Jed York’s life must be a good life.
— Jed York (@JedYork) December 13, 2013