Sometimes it only takes one play to earn Hoss Of The Week honors.
Some days, that play doesn’t even show up on the stat sheet.
On Sunday, flipping between the Broncos-Chargers game and RedZone, I don’t know if I started daydreaming or what, but I looked up at one point and I was sure the Chargers had already won the game. All they needed to do, after all, was run the clock down coming out of the two-minute drill and punt it and keep the Broncos from getting in field goal range in a little over a minute.
The way the game was going, I really didn’t see the Broncos offense being able to pull that off, especially when they were already out of timeouts.
Next thing I know, they’re at the Chargers’ 46-yard line with 20 seconds left in the game. Case Keenum ended up hitting rookie second-round sensation, Courtland Sutton, for a 30-yard gain. Keenum spiked the ball, then Brandon McManus came out and kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to win the game 23-22.
So what happened?
I turned on the film for the answer, and it turns out what had happened was Von Miller had Philip Rivers shook!
Let me digress for a minute.
Having notched a sack and three hurries in the first half, Miller and his team still found themselves down 19-7 with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. To make matters worse the Chargers were threatening to tack on at least another field goal, having marched all the way down to the Denver 35-yard line from their own 22.
The Broncos sorely needed somebody to step up and make a play to help get them back in the game. As he’s done so many times before, Miller pulled yet another rabbit out of his hat to do just that.
It was third-and-9 and Miller was lined up as the left outside linebacker across from Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi. The Chargers had a trips bunch formation to his side with the intention of throwing a wide receiver screen to the super speedy Travis Benjamin.
I’m sure that seemed like a nice, safe play to go with on third-and-9ish because it should have been an easy throw. They still had a good chance of getting a first down because of Benjamin’s ability to get gone in a hurry.
With all the pressure he had been applying prior to that play, especially on the sack where he had one of the best get offs I’ve seen this year, I’m sure the Chargers assumed Miller would be way up the field, trying to get to the passer again, and that would have taken him out of the passing lane, making him no factor in the play.
And that’s where they fucked up!
Miller did not fly upfield all willy nilly, like a blind dog in a meathouse, when he saw Tevi take just one kick step back, then take off running down the field looking for someone to block. Miller stepped right into that passing lane that he wasn’t supposed to be in and picked that screen pass right the hell off.
But for the fact that the ball was going to Benjamin, Miller probably would have housed that interception, too. Benjamin’s got that V12 under the hood, though. However, when Benjamin did catch up to Miller, he found taking Miller down was no easy task.
Miller lumbered the last 12 yards of his 42-yard interception return whilst giving Benjamin a grown man piggy back ride. Hell, maybe the most impressive thing about that game changing play was the fact that Miller had the presence of mind to peek up at the scoreboard while he was running to see if anyone was in pursuit. Then, he put both hands on the ball just as Benjamin tried to sneak him.
After giving the ball back to his offense on the Chargers’ 18-yard line, three plays later the Broncos got in the end zone and right back into the game.
Here is where I remind you that the interception wasn’t the play that actually earned Miller his HOTW for this week, though. Remember, that play didn’t show up in the stat sheet.
The one where Rivers was shook.
It was the play I found when I went looking for what went wrong for the Chargers in one of those moments when I wasn’t paying attention on Sunday.
The first thing to know is this play happened with exactly two minutes left in the game on third-and-7.
At that point, the Broncos were still down, but only by two points 20-22. The problem for them was, as I mentioned before, the clock just wasn’t on their side. With no timeouts left, and the Chargers at their own 48-yard line, all LA really needed to do was keep the clock running. They could have afforded to take all the time off the play clock on fourth down, take the five yard delay of game penalty, then still be able in position to pin the Broncos deep in their own territory with very little time left on the clock.
You do the math on it.
Even if the Chargers had simply knelt on that play and taken just a second off the clock, they still wouldn’t have been punting with more than 1:20 left on the clock. Then you factor in the time for the punt, which took seven seconds off the clock, and how much time would you have left?
Well, Denver actually got the ball back with 1:51 left in the game.
All because of that earlier interception.
Let me explain.
First, let me clearly state that I blame the Chargers coaching staff as much as, or more than I do Rivers for his epic fuck up. After that interception, they shouldn’t have even considered trying Miller like that.
But try him again they did, and it did not go well.
This time the Chargers lined up with a two-by-two formation with Antonio Gates inside in the slot and Keenan Allen out wide to the offense’s right side of the formation. Miller was again lined up as the left outside linebacker, this time lined up across from Joe Barksdale, who was apparently platooning at right tackle with Tevi on Sunday.
For reasons I don’t think I could every fully understand, the Chargers decided during the two minute warning that they would run another wide receiver screen, or to be more precise they would run two, one on both sides of the formation. I also have no idea how Rivers was supposed to choose which side to throw it to, but I do know if he willingly picked Miller’s side, he was tripping.
More than anything else about that play, however, choosing to not run the ball in some form or fashion, in that situation, especially when you have one of the league’s top backs in Melvin Gordon, is going to baffle the shit out of me forever.
But I guess that’s why they pay coaches the big bucks.
Anyway, regardless of the whys, that was the play they ultimately decided to go with. And it. predictably, came back to bite them right in the arse.
Just like Tevi, Barksdale took one kick step back, then headed down the field to look for someone in the Broncos secondary to block. Gates ran inside looking for a linebacker to block. Allen took a couple of steps downfield then hopped back behind the line of scrimmage to look for the pass. Rivers got about two steps into his drop back and before he started into his throwing motion the damndest thing happened.
Just as he had the first time, Miller read the play perfectly, and after taking a couple of steps upfield, he took an angle outside to get in the passing lane screen again. Rivers was so worried about throwing another pick and maybe one that would actually get taken back for six this time, that he ... threw the ball into the ground, instead.
This is Philip Rivers now, not some rookie free agent slappy or something. He knew better, but seeing Von jump out there like that, made him react in a way that was out of character.
Do you know how scary of a defender you have to be to force Philip Friggin’ Rivers into a dumbass play like that in a crucial situation? He literally could have just fallen down and started doing snow angels when he saw Miller in the passing lane and the Chargers would have been a lot better off.
Instead he instinctively threw the ball where nobody could catch it.
Because, Von Miller.
It doesn’t get more “putting the team on your byke” than picking off a pass late in the game and returning it all the way into the red zone, then, with just two minutes left, and his team still behind, scaring a future Hall Of Famer into one of the bigger brain farts of his career without even touching a soul.
That brain fart gave Miller’s offense just enough time to get down the field and kick a come-from-behind, game-winning field goal in the contest’s final seconds. Nothing gets much more Hoss than that.
The sack and the pressures were cool, but forcing Rivers into that incompletion is what really did it for me. You look up the stat sheet from the game and Miller’s name is no where to be found in the description of that play, but he was the one that forced that incompletion all the same.
The Broncos don’t escape with their fourth victory of the year without Von Miller’s critical contributions. That’s why he is my Hoss Of The Week for Week 11 of the 2018 NFL season.
Also, shout out to Aaron Donald who went Bruce Lee Roy at the end of the Last Dragon again on Monday Night Football by the way. As well as his teammate Samson Ekubam who had a sack, an interception, two touchdowns, a fumble recovery along with two other pressures, including one that left to an interception at the end of the game.