I had the pleasure and misery of attending the Broncos’ 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY. Denver fans were well represented in orange and blue at the stadium, with all hoping Christmas would come early in the form of an AFC West title on Saturday.
Instead, we got lumps of coal–and an eerie reminder of the Broncos’ puzzling futility in December, which may run much deeper than this season. Some notes on the Broncos’ performance, as I saw it, in all three phases:
Defense Holds Up Its End of the Bargain-
Running out of safeties-
- It was tough to watch the Broncos lose two starting safeties to injury in Quinton Carter and Brian Dawkins. Secondary depth has been an issue of late, and it showed against the Bills with missed tackles and bad reads resulting in big plays.
Misleading final score-
- The final score makes Denver’s defense look bad, but really, they surrendered only 19 points on the road. The other 21 were gift-wrapped to the Bills with poor special teams and Tim Tebow‘s back-to-back pick-sixes.
- The defense failed to record a turnover for the second week in a row. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were non-existent in the pass rush. That will have to change for the Broncos to have success against Kyle Orton and the Chiefs next week.
Giving up 3′s, not 7′s
- Red zone defense was outstanding. Despite having to defend short fields, Denver allowed only one touchdown in the Bills’ six trips to the red zone, including a second half goalline stand from the one-yard-line.
Special Teams Meltdown-
- The momentum of this game completely changed in the second quarter. You could feel the entire stadium light up when Leodis McKelvin returned Britton Colquitt‘s punt 80 yards for a touchdown–a play that was reviewed by the booth and surprisingly upheld (even some Buffalo fans around me thought McKelvin’s foot touched out of bounds).
- Then, Eddie Royal‘s 94 yard return touchdown on the ensuing kickoff was negated by a Dante Rosario holding penalty. For most of the game, coverage units had trouble staying in their lanes. Return units committed a handful of other costly holding and block-in-the-back penalties as well.
- For a team predicated on winning the field position battle, Denver needs to work hard on the kicking game this week in practice.
Offense’s Disappearing Act-
- Denver opened the first half in dominating fashion, forcing a three-and-out on defense then marching 73 yards for a touchdown on the offense’s opening drive. It must have been a Christmas miracle, because Tebow and the Broncos’ offense then proceeded to go three-and-out on their final six possessions in the first half for a grand total of…21 yards (3.5 yards per offensive possession).
- After the intermission, Tebow and the offense again drove down the field for a touchdown. And, again, it would be the only points of the half.
- Still, it seemed the stage was set for another Tebow comeback midway through the fourth quarter. After driving into Bills territory, Denver faced a crucial third-and-8 that saw Eric Decker run deep into a gap in the defense. Tebow put it right on his hands, and he dropped it.
As I walked out of Ralph Wilson stadium on Christmas Eve, I kicked around some charcoal left on the parking lot, feeling like Santa had dropped it on all the hopeful Bronco fans in attendance. While the Broncos didn’t enjoy a merry Christmas Eve, they still have an opportunity for a happy new year next Sunday, January 1st, in Denver, Orton vs. Tebow.
And to all a good night.