INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Initial thoughts from Broncos’ 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 14 at SoFi Stadium:
1. Broncos steal Staley’s birthday cake: Happy Birthday, Brandon Staley! The Broncos (7-6) and Sean Payton might have just sealed your pink slip. Although you did this one to yourself, champ, as Los Angeles whiffed on five of six fourth-down chances. Including some absolute head-scratching go-for-it decisions on the part of Staley and his staff. Pick your fireable offense. Playoffs? Heck, yeah, Broncos Country is talking playoffs, especially with the Chiefs wobbling. The sixth and seventh seeds for the AFC are setting up to be a free-for-all, and the loser of Broncos-Chargers was basically eliminated from the AFC postseason picture. Even sweeter? The Raiders (5-8) joined the Bolts (5-8) in Loserville thanks to a home setback to the Vikings. That leaves the AFC West as a two-team, two-horse race. And one of those horses is wearing Orange and Blue.
2. Offensive line props: Would you believe the Broncos go as Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey go? In a repeat of that home win over Cleveland, Denver’s book-end tackles did a heck of a job making one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL a non-factor. Chargers star Khalil Mack was handed his first sack-less game since Nov. 12, a span of four tilts. The offensive line helping to eat 7:36 off the clock late after the hosts scored? And a TD pass in the red zone out of the ‘T’ formation? Tip of the cap to Sean Payton and Russell Wilson, those star-crossed lovers, on that one.
3. Ain’t Jeudy’s feet. Or Jeudy’s hands. It’s Jeudy’s head. Two drops. No toe-drag. A complete lack of awareness in the end zone. Jerry Jeudy says he’s open all the time. And given his separation skills, that might very well be true. But for every few games that No. 10 reminds us why he was the highest-drafted wideout in Broncos history, he gives us a first half such as Sunday’s. A half that reminds us why his quarterbacks don’t care if he’s open — they’re looking for somebody else. Somebody who can, ya know, consistently catch the ball.
4. Are the replay refs blind?: We know that Easton Stick’s got a friend in Carson Wentz. Apparently, the Chargers backup QB has friends in the NFL league office, too. Sorry, New York. That ball Ja’Quan McMillan jarred out of the signal-caller’s hand as he attempted to throw with 1:36 left until halftime? Total fumble. It was a fumble in real-time. It was a fumble at half-speed. At any speed. Except, apparently, at whatever speed the wonks in the replay booth are processing reviews these days.
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