Sunday was a day of opportunity in the AFC West. If the Oakland Raiders could’ve found a way to win their game against the Tennessee Titans they would’ve found themselves holding the six seed in the AFC playoff picture. The San Diego Chargers found a way to shock the Kansas City Chiefs and keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Denver Broncos had a chance to prove they were the best team in the conference with a win over the New England Patriots. Instead, they blew a 24 point lead and suffered their second loss of the season.
AFC West Standouts:
Rivers easily had his best game of the season. Not his best numbers however, but for the magnitude of the game it was his most important performance thus far. He was 27-of-39, for 392 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly no turnovers. If Mike McCoy was not sure that he had a quality quarterback, Rivers’ performance Sunday made his coach a believer.
According to NFL.com, McCoy told reporters, “I’ll tell you right now, we’ve got a great quarterback,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “There was no doubt in my mind at the end of the game he was going out and scoring.”
Kansas City Chiefs Defense:
The Chiefs gave up 41 points, the most they have given up this season. Their top two pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston went down with injuries in the first half. Nevertheless, they should still have had enough talent left on the field to compete with the Chargers offense.
The defense was unable to cause any turnovers and only garnered one sack. Keenan Allen had eight catches and over 100 yards in the first half alone. The defense was able to hold him to one catch in the second half but then Danny Woodhead and Eddie Royal started making plays. If Hali and Houston are out for any length of time, the No. 1 seed maybe lost, and the team could start the playoffs on the road.
The Raiders defense allowed two 100 yard receivers, Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright. They also gave up over 100 yards rushing and still had a chance to get a stop on the final drive and win the game. The problem was that Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to extend plays and find open receivers. Fitzpatrick was able to throw for 320 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He has been known to turn the ball over, but the Raiders defense could not force him into one.
To be fair to the defense, if Sebastian Janikowski had made two makeable field goals, the outcome is different.
Moreno had his best game as a pro. He had 37 carries for 224 yards and a touchdown. He appeared to be nicked up all night but he kept coming back and making plays. In a game that was supposed to be a battle of quarterbacks it could be argued he stole the show. Unfortunately, even with all those yards, it was not enough for the Broncos to pull out a win.
Manning was 19-of-36, for 150 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. His numbers were marginal by his standards but that is not what stood out. Manning seemed to struggle throwing the ball down field due to the cold weather and the wind. He is not known to have the strongest arm and it cost them on several plays. Particularly, on a deep pass late in the game to Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had beaten his defender but Manning under threw the ball and the defender was able to deflect it.
Manning’s struggles should be a cause for concern moving forward due to the fact that as the season progresses it is only going to get colder. Other than the Indianapolis Colts, every team in the playoff hunt is an outdoor team. (FYI, The Colts left the roof open when they played the Broncos earlier this season.) If the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl that game is in New Jersey at Met Life stadium, where conditions maybe similar to Sunday night.
Photo Courtesy: Sean M. Haffey