W2W4: Five things for Chargers at Broncos

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
4:45
PM ET
DENVER -- Will the San Diego Chargers take the air out of the football to slow down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Thursday?

The Chargers' offense might be the most effective weapon in keeping the ball out of Denver’s hands.

Rivers
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Chargers rank first in the NFL this season averaging 6.3 plays per drive. Also, San Diego averages 29.9 seconds per play, the fourth-slowest in the league, resulting in the second-highest time of possession.

The Chargers are an even 43-43 all-time in night games, and 4-5 in Thursday night contests.

The last time San Diego played on the road on Thursday night, the Chargers lost at Kansas City 31-3 on Oct. 16, 1997.

Steal some possessions: Just another way of saying San Diego’s defense needs to create some turnovers to flip field position and keep the ball away from a potent Denver offense. The Chargers forced seven turnovers through the team’s first 10 games, but have created seven turnovers in the past three. The Chargers are 4-1 in games they have a plus-1 or better turnover differential. Denver has turned it over 25 times this season.

Get off the field on third down: The Broncos are the No. 1 offense in converting third downs at 48.2 percent. Defensively, the Chargers are No. 22 in the league on getting off the field on third down at 40.2 percent. That number needs to be better for the Chargers on Thursday.

Mathews
Score in the red zone: Last game against Denver, the Chargers settled for too many field goals in a 28-20 loss. But the Chargers have been better inside the 20-yard line of late, going 6 of 10 in the past three games. Handing the ball to Ryan Mathews to keep defenses honest in the compact space of the red zone helps.

Win the kicking game: The Chargers could use some explosive plays in the kicking game to help swing field position. And bottling up Denver’s talented kick returner Trindon Holliday will be a point of emphasis for San Diego’s coverage units. Holliday did not play last week against Tennessee because of a shoulder issue.

Tackle: What ultimately beats teams defensively is Manning’s willingness to take the check-downs and let his receivers make plays. So it will be important for San Diego’s defense to make good open-field tackles and not let the Broncos spring loose for big gains. Same thing in the running game -- don’t give up any easy plays for scores. Make Denver earn it.

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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