Even in the moments before his first regular-season game as head coach, Vance Joseph showed he would not approach this game with an overabundance of caution.
The Broncos won the coin toss, but instead of deferring the choice to the second half as a majority of coaches do, Joseph instructed his captains to take the ball to start the game. His choice also represented a change from 2016, in which the Broncos tended to put their defense on the field first.
"I want to attack defenses," Joseph told media Monday morning. "And the best time to attack a defense is in your first 15 plays, right? That's the best plays that you've watched all week that's available for you to make plays. So why not get them off the [play] sheet early? So in my opinion, with our defense, playing at home, taking the ball, getting an early score — that makes our team better, in my opinion: not playing defense first and they're punting the ball back to us and now we have to go 80 [yards]. Let's get a return off, let's go score points and let's go hunt the quarterback. That's my mindset."
Though the Broncos couldn't score on the opening drive, they held the Chargers to a short possession and received the ball with better field position and marched 70 yards for a touchdown.
Big snap counts for big-time players
With Thomas leading the Broncos in receiving and Miller playing more snaps than usual and being disruptive in spite of facing multiple blockers on most plays, it seems Joseph's challenges had their intended effect.
"I know Von wants to play more, and that was my challenge to Von when I came here: 'I want you on the field more,'" Joseph said. "But sometimes it can be too much, especially when you're getting chipped by tight ends and backs for 60 snaps. So we've got to figure out how we can spell Von more. D.T., I want him out there. He's a receiver. I want him out there, and when he's out there, we get a fair look at the defense. If he's not out there, we can get a lot of single-high [safety formations] and the run game's not working. If 88's out there, we force them to play single-high, it's one-on-one out there. So I want him out there every snap, if he can."
Gotsis, Green among standouts to Joseph
Almost 12 hours after the game, Joseph didn't have the time to fully break down the tape from Monday night, but he did know a handful of the players who stood out to him.
He began with two young defensive linemen who needed to step up with defensive ends Jared Crick and Zach Kerr out.
"D-line-wise, I thought Shelby played, again, very, very solid," Joseph said. "I thought [DE Adam] Gotsis played well. Gotsis played at the point of attack very strong on double-teams. You could see his quickness. You could see his length and size. So I think Gotsis is coming along. If he stays healthy, he's what he should be for us. I mean, he can be a starter for us. He can rush the passer. He can play the run game. So obviously I was pleased with Gotsis, I was pleased with Shelby. I thought Darian Stewart played very solid, very well, having two young guys with him on the back end. He played solid. Offensively, I thought Virgil Green blocked [and] caught the ball very well. I thought Trevor played well, outside of the one interception. D.T. [and] Emmanuel [Sanders] both played well last night."
Licking their wounds
Joseph also updated the statuses of three Broncos who suffered injuries during the game.
He had no timetable estimation for guard Ron Leary, who suffered a concussion and is now in the league-mandated concussion protocol.
"It's no time limit on it," Joseph said. "It's a protocol we'll have to follow, as far as certain requirements he has to pass … before he can play on Sunday. But there's no time limit. It's just protocol in place that he has to pass."
Cornerback Brendan Langley came out of the game with a knee injury, but Joseph said the training staff is still examining the rookie.
Joseph also couldn't offer a concrete update on Stewart, who suffered a right groin injury.
"We don't know a lot about it right now," Joseph said. "I should know more later, but speaking last night to our training staff it wasn't major, but I'll know more later today and tomorrow for you guys."