Who would have guessed the Chargers would be the most impressive AFC West team in Week 14? Not very many people, but that’s exactly what happened as San Diego put together a convincing road victory at Pittsburgh, while Denver sleepwalked through an uninspired win over the Raiders. Let’s take a closer look at things with the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Good – The Denver offense got considerable production out of its running game Thursday night, as Knowshon Moreno ran for 119 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Moreno also caught four passes for 48 yards, giving him 36 total touches, which is a lot. Moreno’s performance is a good sign for the Broncos moving forward, as it shows that they’re capable of running the ball effectively and that Moreno is capable of being the team’s workhorse out of the backfield.
Bad – Denver’s win over Oakland wasn’t their most impressive win of the year. In fact, many of the Broncos players were lamenting the team’s lack of focus and execution after the game. The Broncos should have been able to beat the Raiders a lot more convincingly, and this game showed that maybe the team isn’t as prepared for the playoffs as many people thought they were.
Ugly – One reason why the Broncos didn’t blow out the Raiders the way they were expected to was its red zone offense, which was awful. In seven trips to the red zone, the Broncos came away with just two touchdowns, and one of those came when they were handed the ball at the one-yard line. A team with Peyton Manning throwing the ball, quality receivers and tight ends catching the ball, and a strong offensive line should be a lot better than 2 for 7 in the red zone. Against a playoff caliber team, the Broncos may not have been able to escape with a win with such a poor performance in the red zone.
Good – On the first play from scrimmage, Jamaal Charles ran for an 80-yard touchdown, giving the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead. That run gave Kansas City hope that they could pull out another win; but unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
Bad – If a poor performance from the offense and the defense weren’t enough, the Kansas City special teams also contributed to another lop-sided game at the Chief’s expense. Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin gashed the Chief’s cover unit on a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown, as several Chiefs missed opportunities to tackle him along the way.
Ugly – Of all the ugly stats in this game, Kansas City’s 1 for 11 conversion rate on third downs is probably the worst. All day long the Chiefs were in long distances on third down and unable to keep their offense on the field, which is why they were barely able to get over the 300-yard mark for the game.
Good – For once, the Oakland defense deserves some praise. Defensively, the Raiders hung tough against a very talented Denver offense, especially in the red zone, allowing just two touchdowns in seven attempts. The fact that the Broncos held the ball for over 37 minutes and the Raiders only surrendered 26 points is impressive, as they did a good job of playing bend but don’t break defense against one of the NFL’s best offenses.
Bad – The Raiders were still in the game in the middle of the third quarter, and were starting to put some game pressure on the Broncos when Carson Palmer fumbled the ball away to the Broncos recovered at the Oakland one-yard line. Denver punched the ball into the end zone on the very next play, which put the game out of reach for the Raiders. Before that, Oakland’s defense had kept them in the game, but there was nothing they could do about Denver taking over that close to the goal line. It was that one bad play that ended any hope of the Raiders coming back to win.
Ugly – In typical Raider fashion the team hurt itself with penalties, accumulating 11 that sent them backwards a total of 94 yards. Most hurtful were all the holding penalties, as the Oakland offensive line had no answer for Von Miller and the Denver pass rush. When they weren’t being held, the Broncos only got one sack; of course, that sack caused a fumble that the Broncos recovered and quickly turned into seven points.
Good – There was a lot to like about San Diego’s win over the Steelers, but the foundation for the win was the play along the defensive line. The Charger’s first line of defense was great all game at stopping the run, holding the Steelers to just 69 yards rushing. They were especially good in short yardage situations, including a 4th and short in the 2nd quarter that they stopped, which helped the Chargers take a 13-0 lead. The San Diego front four also made sure that Ben Roethlisberger took plenty of hits in his return from injury.
Bad – With three new starters from last week’s game, the offensive line continued to struggle. Even on screens designed to hide the weaknesses up front Philip Rivers was forced to throw the ball into the ground because he simply didn’t trust the offensive line. All those throws into the ground make Rivers’ stat of 21 completions on 41 passes misleading.
Ugly – Also hurting Rivers’ completion stats were a number of drops by San Diego receivers, namely Antonio Gates and Danario Alexander. Both Gates and Alexander would go on to make key plays, but they still hurt Rivers early on with drops. Gates had the most egregious drops, as at times the once great tight end started to show his age.