SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- San Diego lives in perpetual postcard state. It's Thursday, so the weather sits at 73 degrees and sunny. The grass is green, expectant. And the sky is powder blue. If this is the Broncos' last trip to San Diego -- the Chargers' future remains uncertain because of a stadium ballot issue next month -- then this pilgrimage will be missed.
It doesn't hurt that the Broncos play about as well here as the 1998 Padres. The Broncos haven't lost an AFC West road game since 2010, a streak spanning 15 games. The Chargers haven't won a division game anywhere in 10 games. The Broncos will look to continue the trend on Thursday night football, decked out in creamsicle color rush uniforms with navy blue helmets featuring the old school 'D.'
With that, here are the 3 Big Things to look for:
1) Contain Melvin Gordon
Running back Melvin Gordon has been effective early in games. He averages near four yards per carry in the first three quarters. Nothing spectacular, but enough to move the chains. His average falls under two yards in the fourth quarter. If he doesn't start well, there's no reason to think he will finish strong. And speaking of which, the Broncos must be better on the first drive. They've allowed 24 points on first possessions this season. The Broncos are too good defensively to let this happen consistently, especially when their own offense has scored one touchdown in the first quarter and 13th overall. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (10) and Cardinals (0) are worse.
2) Run better, run more
The Broncos average 28 rushes per game and 101.4 yards. Not bad. But deceiving. The Broncos averaged 141 yards a week during the first two games. They have been well under 100 yards per contest since. The key is better yardage on first down. And C.J. Anderson needs to regain his footing. Rookie Devontae Booker is playing well, starting to push the envelope. Anderson is better in pass protection so he will be needed tonight. But it's time for him to find his rhythm. Denver has to remain committed as well because Anderson gets better later in games.
3) Protect Siemian
Getting Trevor Siemian back is only part of the equation. The line must keep him upright and protect him. The Broncos would love to run to set up the pass. It would take pressure off Siemian. If he has to throw 35 times, it not only hurts the chances of victory, but places him in peril.