Broncos getting ready for their onside kick.

Broncos Fall In Last Game Of The Season


Ryan Mathews runs in for the score to help the Chargers beat the Broncos. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The lights at Invesco shine brightly in front of my face. Not a seat in the stadium is filled, and Broncos’ players and their families stand mingling on the field. It’s quite the sight compared to two hours ago when Tebow chants and fireworks filled the air. The scene at Invesco is a serene, almost church-like canvas.

The Broncos end the year 4-12, plenty of room for improvement. As many players filed out of the locker room tonight, they didn’t know if they would be back next year.
Today’s 33-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers put the lid on one of the most tumultuous seasons in Broncos history. That may be an understatement, but change is right around the corner. The Broncos’ 4-12 season has cemented the Broncos into the #2 spot in the draft. Factor that in with the “Tebow Hope Factor”, and John Elway coming in as Vice President of Football Operations (expect a formal announcement sometime this week), and Broncos Country will be turning a new leaf once again. 

“The reality of the NFL is that there is change every year. (There is change) on the coaching staff, on teams, players – people coming and people going,” Eric Studesville said after the game. “This group of men – this is probably the last time we are going to be together as one group with everybody in there together.”

That appears to be it for interim coach Eric Studesville. With a 1-3 record as head coach, the man showed heart but couldn’t translate that into wins. He will have the chance to interview for the head coaching position formally, and that will take place next week.

Like the Broncos, the Chargers played this game simply for pride. However, it’s set in stone that Norv Turner will be back next year. The main reason for that is the Chargers improved over the course of the year.

“The problems we had early were so dramatic,” Norv Turner said post-game. “We have a plan for what we want to do as a football team and I’m not going to get into that.”

Fair enough, coach. Life without a postseason playoff berth is tough, huh?

Despite nothing but a draft pick on the line, both teams showed up to play today, and put a nail-biter on the field in front of 76,000 people.

Even though the Broncos gave up 33 points, they came up big defensively. They sacked Philip Rivers five times for a loss of 30, and intercepted him once. Not bad against the 3rd best passing team in the league. The thing that this defense had trouble doing was getting stops on third down.

The Chargers went 6-for-16 on third downs and did just enough to get kicker Nate Kaeding into field goal range. Kaeding knocked through four field goals, none less from 37 yards out.

Philip Rivers was limited to 21-for-37 passing, 313 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. It was Ryan Mathews who kicked Bronco butt with 26 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns. Did Darren McFadden skip his game with Oakland and put on a Mathews’ jersey?

In the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was 33-14, but Tebow and Co. nearly staged another late game comeback. Cassius Vaughn staged a 97-yard touchdown on a kickoff to cut it to 33-21, and then Tebow rushed up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Broncos recovered the onside kick, giving Tebow the opportunity to shine. Two Hail Mary heaves didn’t fall into the outreached arms of any player, and the clock ticked down to 0:00.

If there was any reason for a prayer not to be answered, maybe the reasoning comes in a No. 2 draft selection.

Game, set, season.  

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Tags: Denver Broncos Eric Studesville Norv Turner Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers Tim Tebow