AFC West: 2013 Week 10 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

November, 10, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 28-20 loss to the Denver Broncos.

What it means: The Chargers (4-5) fall under the .500 mark for the first time since a Week 5 loss at Oakland. San Diego is 0-2 against the AFC West this season.

Comeback falls short: Down 28-6 in the second half, the Chargers could have easily packed it in and mentally started getting ready for next week. They didn't. San Diego scratched its way back to 28-20 with just over 10 minutes left, but failed to get past midfield on the potential game-tying drive.

Demaryius Thomas thrives: San Diego's smallish corners had trouble dealing with Denver's big-bodied receiver Demaryius Thomas, who finished with seven receptions for 108 yards, including three touchdowns. The Chargers' secondary has struggled with big receivers all year. Denver tight end Julius Thomas -- another big, fast player -- finished with three receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown.

Redemption for Mathews: After gaining just 34 yards on seven carries last week, Ryan Mathews rebounded with a solid performance, finishing with 59 yards on 14 carries, including a 35-yard run. Mathews also had a 1-yard touchdown run on a goal-line play that San Diego would have been wise to use last week, when the Chargers failed to get the winning score from a yard out against Washington. The Chargers rushed for 131 yards as a team, but 113 of those yards came in the first half.

Cox benched again: For a second straight game, San Diego’s top free-agent addition, cornerback Derek Cox, was benched for poor play. Cox failed to get Denver tight end Julius Thomas out of bounds on his 74-yard reception for a score in the opening quarter, and received an earful from defensive coordinator John Pagano on the sideline after the play. Cox later returned to the game after fellow cornerback Shareece Wright suffered an apparent leg injury. Cox was benched in the second half of San Diego’s overtime loss to Washington last week.

What’s next: The Chargers hit the road and travel to Miami for an afternoon game next Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

November, 10, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 28-20 win over the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: It means we get an AFC West showdown next Sunday night when the 9-0 Chiefs come to Denver to face the now 8-1 Broncos. It will offer the age-old question about defense against offense, with the highest-scoring offense in the league’s history after nine games facing the league’s sack leaders who have not surrendered more than 17 points to any opponent this season.

Stock watch: Tight end Julius Thomas was limited in practice this past week because of an ankle injury, but it took just one play for Thomas to show he felt just fine and what he means to the offense when he is healthy. On the third play from scrimmage for the Broncos, Thomas took a short flip from Peyton Manning 74 yards up the right sideline for the Broncos’ first touchdown. In the Broncos’ three-wide receiver set Thomas continues to be the riddle for opposing defenses when they move their help toward Denver’s wide receivers.

Blindside issues: In Week 7, the Colts’ Robert Mathis terrorized Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, putting two of the hardest hits on Manning of the season from the blind side -- a rush from the defensive right -- including one that caused a fumble. The Chargers’ Tourek Williams beat Broncos left tackle Chris Clark Sunday to swipe the ball out from Manning’s blind side. The momentum changed in the game for a bit and with the Chiefs next up on the docket, it is a concern.

Variety pack: With cornerback Champ Bailey having missed his seventh game of the season because of a foot injury and safety Duke Ihenacho out with an ankle injury, defensive coordinator/interim coach Jack Del Rio obviously made the decision to use everybody else in uniform Sunday. Del Rio played all nine active defensive backs at some point in the defense. He mixed and matched in all of the personnel groupings, especially at cornerback, where Quentin Jammer got the start in the base defense. Kayvon Webster, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris also played at cornerback in the base defense during the game.

What’s next: The Chiefs (9-0) are coming off a bye, so they will have had some extra time to get ready for the Broncos’ offense. Kansas City has 36 sacks, but while Justin Houston (11.0) and Tamba Hali (9.0) are the outside rushers who have done the most damage, it’s Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (4.5) who may be the most difficult matchup for the Broncos overall.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

November, 10, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 24-20 loss to the New York Giants:

What it means: As opportunistic as the Raiders were early -- all 17 first-half points came on Giants turnovers -- Oakland’s offense was just as inconsistent. One yard from going up 24-14 midway through the third quarter, the Raiders instead could not punch the ball in and had to settle for a field goal. As a result, Oakland’s losing streak in games played in the Eastern time zone reached 12, dating to Dec. 6, 2009, while it's gotten outscored by a combined 379-198. In fact, the Raiders are now 5-29 in games played three time zones away since Dec. 15, 2002.

Stock watch: Falling -- Terrelle Pryor. Yes, Pryor was playing on a bad wheel with his tweaked right knee. And the offensive line offered little help. Same with his receivers. But Pryor looks to have regressed. At halftime, Pryor was 3-of-12 passing for 27 yards. And his third-quarter interception -- he tried to squeeze a pass between three Giants to Denarius Moore -- was a backbreaker as New York returned it to the Raiders' 5-yard line. Pryor's decision-making has come into question as well, even before his lost fumble on a strip-sack in the fourth quarter. He finished 11-of-26 for 122 yards.

Porter owns the Mannings: Tracy Porter's 74-yard pick-six of Peyton Manning sealed the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts. And Porter’s 43-yard pick-six of Eli Manning gave the Raiders a 17-14 lead late in the second quarter. Porter is the lone NFL player to have returned interceptions for scores against both Manning brothers.

Jennings shows up: With Darren McFadden out with an injury, Rashad Jennings was a more-than-capable replacement. The hard-running Jennings finished with 88 yards on 20 carries. So it was strange to see the Raiders not call his number three straight times when they had a first-and-goal from the Giants’ 1-yard line in the third quarter.

What's next: The Raiders (3-6) play at the Houston Texans (2-6, entering Sunday) for the first time since the Immaculate Interception, when Oakland had a game-ending interception in the end zone with only 10 players on the field the day after Al Davis passed away. The Texans are expected to regain the services of coach Gary Kubiak for this game after he suffered a mini-stroke last week, though running back Arian Foster is reportedly headed to season-ending injured reserve on Monday.