The Chargers came into their Week 14 matchup with the Broncos with an aggressive approach and a willingness to go for fourth-down conversions, but the Broncos' defense proved to be up to the challenge.
Denver held Los Angeles to a single conversion on an atypically high six fourth-down attempts, including a red-zone stop on the Chargers' second drive and a pass breakup on a long Los Angeles drive in the second quarter.
On the “Hidden Highlights” segment on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football" on Monday, analyst Peter Schrager highlighted another key fourth-down stuff by the Broncos defense: a group effort by inside linebackers Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell to bring down Chargers running back Joshua Kelley behind the line to gain on fourth-and-1. At the time, the Chargers had advanced the ball to Denver's 40-yard line and had the chance to cut into the Broncos' 10-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
"You saw the Broncos win and Russ doing his pass to Sutton — did you see the defense that Vance Joseph's unit put together on this Chargers offense?" Schrager said. "I'm going to go to the third quarter, Brandon Staley's doing it, he's like, 'Let's go for it, fourth-and-1.' And the Broncos defense shuts the door and makes sure this game is not going to be any closer than it was."
The third-quarter stop proved to be a turning point in the game. The play increased the Broncos' win probability by 9.6 percentage points to 85.5, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and foiled one of the Chargers' most promising drives. Denver's offense capitalized on the momentum swing with a four-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that culminated in wide receiver Courtland Sutton's one-handed, 46-yard touchdown reception.
With five turnovers on down, six sacks and two takeaways, the Broncos' defense catapulted the team to a crucial road victory and continued a trend of strong play by all three levels of the defense.
"I love what the Broncos defense has done," Schrager said. "… Right now they're one of the best units in all of football. That fourth-down stop really got things going."