Vikings Chargers Football

Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley gives instructions during a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 14 in Inglewood, Calif.

DENVER — The Broncos are set to take on their second division opponent this Sunday at Empower Field, facing the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Here's everything you need to know about the Broncos' Week 12 opponent: 

Head coach: Brandon Staley

A former Broncos assistant Brandon Staley has the Chargers heading in the right direction in his first season as head coach. Staley was the Broncos' outside linebacker coach in 2019, after spending two seasons at the same position in Chicago under now-Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.

"When I interviewed him in the winter of 2018 — I knew he had the good ability to be a really good coach," Fangio said. "For me to predict that he would be a head coach four years later — I didn’t predict that, but I knew Brandon had special abilities as a coach. He had a really good understanding of the game on both sides of the ball. I was really happy to hire him and thought he would progress very well, and he did."

Staley, 38, has risen quickly in the NFL, serving as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020 before taking over the Chargers. He's considered one of the brightest defensive minds in the game, and so far, he has the Chargers rolling with a 6-4 record and a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018. 

Offense: Herbert leads the way

The Broncos had better get used to having to face Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who is only in his second year in the NFL. The 23-year-old is already considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL and has the Chargers ranked seventh in total offense and passing offense this season. 

He's totaled 2,927 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns and eight interceptions, while also rushing 207 yards and two touchdowns this season. 

"I thought that their coaching staff last year did a great job with him," Fangio said. "The coaching staff this year has just taken him to a new level, and he’s really, really good. He throws the ball extremely well. He’s got a big arm, but he throws with touch. He throws a very catchable ball. Obviously, he’s big, so he’s hard to get down. He’s athletic and fast. You saw him run for almost 100-yards (Sunday) on scrambles, so he’s a complete quarterback.”

Defense: Run game deficiencies 

The Chargers' run defense has been its biggest flaw this season. They currently rank last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 145.1 yards on the ground per game. The Broncos, which rank 19th in rushing offense, should be able to find some success running the ball Sunday. 

But for as bad as the Chargers' rushing defense is, its passing defense is the complete opposite. The Chargers have the fifth-ranked passing defense in the NFL, allowing only 209.9 yards through the air per game. 

“They do a lot of things out of a two-shell look to try and disguise their intentions pre-snap and they do a good job with that," Fangio said. "They have a good pass rush led by (OLB Joey) Bosa. He’s a really good pass rusher as we all know, and I think it’s a combination of rush in coverage disguise.”

Key to the game: Fourth downs

The Chargers have gone for it on fourth down 18 times this season, which is tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. They've converted 11 of those, sitting a 61.1 conversion percentage this season, which is eighth in the NFL. 

The Broncos are no stranger to gambling on fourth down, going for it 15 times and converting 10 of those, which makes their 66.7 conversion percentage tied for the third-highest in the NFL. Converting and stopping fourth downs will be key to a Broncos' victory Sunday. 

"They have been aggressive to do it. We’ve done it a fair amount and would have done it some more but too many of the fourth rounds were too long," Fangio said. "They’ve been aggressive with it. They did it (Sunday). It didn’t work, but it was the right move. I would have done the same thing. Obviously, they feel good about it, and then a big part of it too was because of their quarterback.”

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