Thoughts on the loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium (In no particular order):
- I just don’t understand why the Denver Broncos consistently put forth a listless and downright embarrassing effort once Christmas season rolls around. Since the last playoff run in 2005, the Broncos have made a habit out of fading down the stretch. They lost the season finale with a playoff berth on the line in 2006, 2008, and 2009. The “win-and-you’re-in” scenario seems to paralyze the team in recent years even though the roster and coaching staff has turned over a few times. And it’s not just that they lose games late in the season; it’s that they get steamrolled and don’t even compete. A defensive unit that has been tough all season can’t get consistent pressure on the quarterback and seemingly gives up a 1st down on every snap. An offense that looks explosive and unstoppable for a drive or 2 will suddenly produce several conservative 3-and-outs. Although I can’t explain why the Broncos are a different team now than the one we saw for 2 months in the middle of the season, I do know that by the end of the day Saturday things could have been a lot worse. Due to the other results around the AFC West, the Chargers and Chiefs have been eliminated from postseason contention despite the Denver loss. And even though the Raiders won, they still must win their season finale against the Chargers to have a chance to win the division title. If the Raiders lose that game, the Broncos will be AFC West Champions regardless of what happens at Mile High Stadium this Sunday.
- Although the Broncos can conceivably win the division despite possibly losing their final 3 games of the season (once again), I think it is very important that Denver goes out and actually WINS it. They need to play well, avoid mistakes, and actually look like a playoff football team if they are going to get into the postseason dance. Not only that, but I think a win late in the year to clinch a division championship would officially close the book on the darkest chapter in the history of the franchise and change the culture of the modern-day Denver Broncos. Lastly, a win this weekend will give Broncos Country something to be proud of, and it will allow the fans to enjoy some good times for a change, which we absolutely deserve.
- I know that most Broncos fans are a little disheartened by how the team looks right now, but take a step back and look at the big picture. When Denver was 1-4 and it looked like they were headed to a repeat of the 4-12 season from 2010, how many of you would have signed up immediately for a 1 game win-and-you’re-in opportunity? Everything is still on the table for this team. The Broncos are in complete control of their own destiny; they just need to take advantage of it for a change.
- Big plays. Denver has given up a boatload of them the last 2 weeks but have managed very few of their own. Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin set a franchise record for punt return yardage in a single game on Saturday and took one to the house. I have no clue why the Broncos were still punting in his direction towards the end. To top off the miserable day on special teams, Denver had a kickoff return touchdown of their own called back by a penalty. I will be the first to admit that it was an extremely questionable call and the penalty shouldn’t have been thrown, but Dante Rosario shouldn’t have even made it close. The Broncos were forced to play from behind due to that turn of events and it led to their parade of turnovers late in the game.
- Speaking of turnovers, Denver once again lost that battle by a large margin, and they also failed to force a single turnover during the entire game. Many of the interceptions thrown by Tim Tebow were caused by desperation late in the day, but they absolutely need to get back to protecting the football. That was a huge reason behind their success during the 6-game winning streak and it will be a huge factor again if they want to return to their winning ways.
- Brian Dawkins was forced to leave the game with an injury for the 2nd week in a row. Unfortunately, it sounds like this one may force him to consider retirement. That is a huge blow because as soon as Dawkins left the game the defense started giving up yards in big chunks. The young safeties need to start playing better otherwise they may find themselves on special teams full-time come 2012.
- The national media just couldn’t wait to start making a big deal out of the Kyle Orton return to Mile High, but to be honest I couldn’t care less about that. What’s going on right now with this Broncos team is much bigger than Orton. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just another guy in a Chiefs uniform who needs to be put into the ground by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
- For the 2nd week in a row the Broncos came out on fire before the wheels spun off in a disastrous 2nd quarter. If I were to pinpoint a single moment where the game started to turn, it would be the failed 3rd and inches immediately before the McKelvin punt return touchdown. John Fox and Mike McCoy went back to their typical ultra-conservative game plan in that 2nd quarter and it killed them. What were they thinking by running a slow-developing sweep play in that situation? You have Tim Tebow at quarterback!! Run a quarterback sneak or a Tebow draw. It has been proven that he is likely to be successful in that situation so they need to take advantage of it. As soon as they missed that short-yardage conversion I knew that it would cost them, and it came to fruition on the very next snap.
- The most frustrating part of that game was that the Broncos played poorly in every facet. They got beat in every phase, and worse yet it looked like they didn’t want it as much as a team who was 5-9 coming into the contest. Typically you can count on a great effort from this team, but for whatever reason they just didn’t produce during the biggest game of the year. Every player on the field was culpable for that embarrassment and I hope they spend all week stewing over that.
- Doesn’t it seem like the Broncos are playing tight and nervous all of a sudden? That easy-going team with nothing to lose has disappeared. Maybe we should spend the whole week telling them they have no chance again. If they are going to play not to lose than they are beat before they even take the field.
- Von Miller’s stat line looks like this: 1 tackle. He was completely shut down. And for whatever reason the Denver pass-rush was almost non-existent. The lone bright spot for the group was a Dumervil sack that pushed his season total to 9.5. If Denver wants to win this weekend they need to control the line of scrimmage and put forth a much better effort in front of the home crowd.
- One thing that has jumped off film over the last 2 weeks is how the Broncos are lacking in overall team speed. Some explosive playmakers will be near the top of the off-season priority list.
- Despite all the negative things that have happened the last 2 weeks, I’m convinced that if you were to take away a couple of mistakes here and there the results would have been completely different. The Broncos just need to get back to basics, limit the turnovers, clean up the penalties, and I think they will have a chance to win any game they play.
- I also have to give the defense credit for stepping up in the red zone. They gave up a ton of yardage in-between the 20′s, but they played better when they were backed up to their own goal line and forced Buffalo to attempt 6 field goals (2 of which went wide left). In fact, the defense only gave up a single touchdown all game. It was the special teams mistakes and the interceptions that were returned for touchdowns that made the score look so ugly.
- It all comes down to this one game Broncos fans. Compared to where this team was 2 months ago, I’m excited for this opportunity. Let’s rock Mile High Stadium and win the AFC West! Go Broncos!
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Topics: Afc West, Buffalo Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Dante Rosario, Denver Broncos, Elvis Dumervil, John Fox, Kyle Orton, Leodis Mckelvin, Mike Mccoy, Raiders, Ralph Wilson Stadum, Tim Tebow, Von Miller