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Three Keys to Broncos-Chargers

Posted Sep 11, 2017

The regular-season opener is finally here. What are the keys to the game?

DENVER -- Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy has gone out of his way to downplay the significance of facing his former team in the Broncos' regular-season opener.

But make no mistake: The Broncos will benefit from having a "wizard" like McCoy on their sideline, calling their offensive plays for the first time since the 2012 season. McCoy's return is the reason why starting tight end Virgil Green believes the offense will be better.

“I think Mike McCoy is a chess master," said Green, who is one of three offensive players who played for McCoy during his previous Broncos stint, along with Demaryius Thomas and Brock Osweiler. "He knows how to calls plays, set plays up and how to set plays up that he was setting up two weeks ago.

"Just listening to him talk, him showing us certain things on film, and him making sure he has an answer for everything just in case -- his i's are dotted and his t's are crossed -- and the way he explains it, he explains it to where all of us can understand. To me, that makes him a wizard."

A little sorcery and a few spells wouldn't hurt as the Broncos look to win a sixth consecutive regular-season opener.

What are three keys to the game?

1. CONTAIN LOS ANGELES ON THE GROUND

For the defense, the challenge is simple: Contain Los Angeles running back Melvin Gordon.

Among the 27 runners who posted at least 200 carries last year, Gordon's rate of one first down every 4.16 attempts ranked eighth. Gordon was one of just six runners among those 27 to rank in the top 10 in first-down and touchdown rate.

“A huge challenge," Head Coach Vance Joseph said of Gordon. "He’s a great young back with great long speed. Stopping the run for us is going to be a priority versus that offense. That is going to be our first key to victory: stopping the run game."

Denver's task is helped by the return of Derek Wolfe from an ankle injury, but hindered by the absence of Zach Kerr and Jared Crick because of knee and back issues.

2. CONTAIN THE CHARGERS' PASS RUSH

A series of outstanding pass rushers in divisional play -- "two monsters off the edge," as Menelik Watson said -- begins with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who combined for 18.5 sacks last season. They offer a stern challenge for Watson and Garett Bolles, who make their Broncos debuts on a reshuffled offensive line that will feature at least three new starters, including Bolles, who is the only rookie who is expected to start on offense or defense for the Broncos on Monday night.

This is where the daily work against Von Miller will come in handy.

"The great thing out here is they play against the premier pass-rusher in the league with Von," McCoy said. "So we’ve been going against him every day since the first day we stepped on the field. All of the other guys we work with also, but we all know what Von can do."

3. WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE

It's pretty simple, but always meaningful.

Since Philip Rivers became the Chargers' starting quarterback in 2006, they are 61-12 when they have a positive turnover margin. That record slumps to 14-16 with an even turnover margin and 22-51 with a negative turnover margin -- including 0-14 with minus-3 or worse.

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