AFC West: 2013 Week 4 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 4

September, 30, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- An examination for four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 52-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesWes Welker has been as good as advertised playing in Denver's offense.
Spread it thick: It is what some defensive coordinators envisioned when the Broncos reeled in Wes Welker in free agency: With a quarterback as accomplished -- and as patient at this point in his career -- as Peyton Manning is, defending the Broncos' three-wide look would be a chore. And it has been just that as Manning has targeted Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Eric Decker 38, 37 and 35 times, respectively, and the three have 29, 26 and 24 catches, respectively

Screen it in: When Sunday’s game was still somewhat in the balance, the Eagles did have some success in the screen game against the Broncos' aggressive front seven, including a short toss to running back Bryce Brown that turned into a 34-yard gain early, along with a 21-yarder to running back LeSean McCoy. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has used running back DeMarco Murray plenty in the passing game -- 21 catches, tied for second on the team -- so it will be something for the Broncos to consider this week.

Finish it: Whenever Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is asked about some tweak in the scheme, he will often get the conversation back to “leverage and tackling" at some point. “It’s basic, as old as football," he said. And when things don’t go right for the Broncos' defense, it’s often because they did not fulfill that maxim. They have been steady in that department for much of the early going, but when the Eagles did move the ball Sunday, there was often a missed tackle to blame. That included a Robert Ayers miss on Michael Vick in the first quarter to go with missed tackles from linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Nate Irving later in the quarter on back-to-back plays, both on McCoy.

Go big: When kick returner Trindon Holliday scores a touchdown, it is almost always an enormous, momentum-swinging play, including his 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Eagles. In 16 games with the Broncos, last season's playoff loss included, Holliday now has six touchdown returns, with the shortest one being a 76-yard punt return last season. His three kickoff returns for scores have been for 105, 104 and 105 yards.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 4

September, 30, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 24-14 loss to the Washington Redskins:

[+] EnlargeDennis Allen
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Dennis Allen's late gamble on fourth down against the Redskins backfired.
Why no FG?: There was still more than 3 minutes left to play and the Raiders, down 10 points, were at Washington’s 17-yard line facing fourth-and-1. Surely it was time to trot out Sebastian Janikowski for the chippy 35-yard field goal and get within a touchdown, no? Well, um, no. Coach Dennis Allen decided to go for it, with a quarterback sneak by Matt Flynn. “It was fourth-and-inches and we have to be able to make inches,” Allen said. Flynn instead fumbled and the Raiders turned it over on downs, still needing two scores. “We hadn’t been moving the ball up and down the field, and to get a chance to be down there when you’re in scoring position,” Allen said, “you can possibly get a touchdown, we have to make inches.” Except, even if Flynn had been successful in getting a few inches, more time would have burned off the clock, and Oakland still would have had 16 yards to go with two timeouts.

Blocked punt reincarnate: It only looked like a repeat of Derrick Jensen blocking Jeff Hayes' punt and recovering it in the end zone for the Raiders’ first points of Super Bowl XVIII. But Rashad Jennings blocking Sav Rocca's punt did the same for Oakland on this day, as Jeremy Stewart recovered the ball in the end zone for the 7-0 advantage. It was Jennings’ second career block -- he almost had another in the fourth quarter -- and Stewart’s first career touchdown.

Hurry-up on the way? Washington prepared a blueprint for future Raiders opponents. Robert Griffin III running the no-huddle in the second quarter helped turn the momentum after the Raiders had taken a 14-0 lead. “When nothing is going your way,” Griffin said, “you’ve got to try something … it kind of tired their defense out a little bit. We were able to move the ball more consistently and convert third downs.”

Of explosive plays IV: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had eight such plays against Washington, two runs and six passes. Washington also had eight explosive plays, two runs and six passes. In three games, the Raiders have 34 explosive plays (12 runs, 22 passes), with three passes for touchdowns. Oakland’s opponents have 31 explosive plays, eight runs and 23 passes with a touchdown each way.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 4

September, 30, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-7 win against the New York Giants:

[+] EnlargeSean McGrath
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaJacquian Williams seems ready to take on more responsibility in his fourth season.
Using the tight end: Tight end was a bright spot in the passing game as Sean McGrath and Kevin Brock combined for seven catches, 91 yards and touchdown. It’s critical that the Chiefs get help from all of their receivers because they don’t have a superstar for Alex Smith to throw to. The Chiefs were confident heading into training camp that they would get big receiving numbers from their tight ends, but none of their top three players at the position suited up against the Giants. Tony Moeaki is out for the season, and it might be at least one more week before Anthony Fasano (ankle) or Travis Kelce (knee) will be ready to play. The Chiefs grabbed McGrath off waivers from Seattle when the regular season started, and Brock re-signed only two weeks ago after being released by the Chiefs at the end of camp.

A new formula: The Chiefs proved they can win a game without winning the turnover battle. They were even in turnovers against the Giants, with each team committing three. That’s a positive sign as they head to Tennessee for Sunday’s game against the Titans, the only team in the league yet to commit a turnover. The Chiefs had been thriving through their first three games by winning the turnover battle. Heading into the Giants game, they were plus-nine in turnover differential, which was best in the league.

Streak ends: Smith's streak of 160 passes without an interception is over, but he didn’t appear much at fault with either of the two interceptions he threw against the Giants. Dwayne Bowe was running a slant on one interception and then appeared to cut the route short. Smith’s second interception was deflected by Jamaal Charles to a New York defender. Smith’s streak was second only to Denver’s Peyton Manning. Smith’s three touchdown passes were a career high. He is 23-5-1 over the past four seasons as a starter.

Scoring in every phase: The punt return brought back 89 yards by Dexter McCluster was the third touchdown scored this season by either the special teams or the defense. That equals the Chiefs’ total for the past two seasons. Touchdowns from the defense and special teams will continue to be important for the Chiefs, who don’t have a big-play offense. The Chiefs did a nice job sustaining long drives against the Giants, including one for 98 yards and another for 80 yards that resulted in touchdowns. But the big gains, such as a 69-yard touchdown catch by the Giants' Victor Cruz, have largely been the domain of the opponent.

Upon Further Review: Chargers Week 4

September, 30, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- A review of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers30-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys:

[+] EnlargeEric Weddle
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsChargers safety Eric Weddle, a seven-year veteran, had a stellar game against Jason Witten and the Cowboys on Sunday.
Weddle shuts down Witten: San Diego safety Eric Weddle twice broke up throws in the middle of the field to tight end Jason Witten on critical third-down plays for the Cowboys. The Chargers held Witten to just five catches for 43 yards. Witten was targeted 10 times. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Weddle was dwarfed by the 6-6, 261-pound Witten. However, Weddle, a three-time All-Pro, reminded observers of something else after the game: He can still play. “I’m pretty good myself,” Weddle said, smiling. “Some people forget about that. But he’s one of the best guys in the league. For myself, I knew coming into this game that if I played well, and if I could nullify him in third-down situations, and any time I was matched up with him, then [we] would have a good chance to win.”

Rivers creating chunk plays: Philip Rivers finished with five pass completions of over 20 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers had plenty of success pushing the ball down the field, completing 9 of 11 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns on throws traveling more than 10 yards downfield. Heading into Sunday’s contest, Rivers had completed 62 percent of such passes, second best among qualified quarterbacks. Per Stats & Info, much of Rivers’ success came after he threw an interception for a touchdown to Dallas linebacker Sean Lee in the second quarter. After that play, Rivers completed 20 of 24 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Chargers to 20 unanswered points and the victory.

Pass rush help needed: With the recent news that pass-rusher Dwight Freeney may have suffered a torn quad that likely will put him out for an extended period of time, San Diego could be scouring the market for pass rush help this week. Freeney, 33, signed a two-year, $8.75 deal with the Chargers in May, including $4.75 million in guaranteed money. Freeney has just a half a sack on the year. The seven-time Pro Bowler was injured in the second quarter against Dallas and did not return. Larry English picked up the slack with Freeney out, and the Chargers still managed to get pressure on Romo for the remainder of the game. However, San Diego will need to find a long-term replacement for Freeney if he has to be placed on injured reserve. Jarret Johnson has been the team’s most effective pass-rusher, with two sacks and 14 tackles on the year.

Woodhead provides a spark: Since the Chargers lost Darren Sproles to New Orleans in free agency in 2011, the team has been searching for a running back with a similar skill set. And San Diego appears to have found one in Danny Woodhead. Against the Cowboys, he enjoyed his first two-touchdown-reception game. Woodhead is second on the team in receptions with 22 for 162 yards. He’s gained another 90 yards on the ground. Specifically, Woodhead has been effective in the red zone, making defenses pay for trying to double cover tight end Antonio Gates inside. And he’s been a nice change-of-pace back to the bruising running style of Ryan Mathews.