Believe it or not the Denver Broncos’ plane ride back home will be colder than the temperature on the field Sunday night. The Broncos dropped their second game of the season, losing to the New England Patriots 34-31, and doing it in record fashion.
The game matches a 1988 loss to a Mike Shanahan-coached for biggest lead lost in team history.
The Broncos forced three turnovers by the middle of the first quarter, and jumped out to a 24-0 lead. At that point, it was the Broncos game to lose. Right before halftime, Trindon Holliday muffed a punt and then Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dove after a meaningless potential interception. He injured his shoulder on the play and was not able to return. That was the scene heading into halftime. The momentum had started its shift.
A Bill Belichick-coached team had never come back to win after being down 24-0 at halftime. Still nothing to fret about, or so we thought.
To start the second half, however, Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 5-yard touchdown. That was the catalyst for the Patriots to score on their next four possessions.
While the Broncos’ defense took the reins early on, the team’s offense struggled, other than Knowshon Moreno, who ran for 224 yards and a touchdown. Peyton Manning went 19-for-36 for just 150 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. It was by far his worst game of the season.
Yes, cold temperatures made it hard for both teams to hold onto the ball (5 turnovers between the two teams), but balls were dropped left and right at the most critical times. It didn’t matter who the target was. Wes Welker. Demaryius Thomas. It didn’t matter.
The Broncos had multiple opportunities to win this one, but they gave it away each and every time. The most crushing blow came when the Broncos were set to receive the ball with less than 3 minutes to go in overtime, and Welker called for the punt to bounce. The ball took a horrible bounce and hit Tony Carter, which allowed the Patriots to fall on it, and kick the 31-yard game winning field goal. Game over.
The Broncos can take a lot of value from this game. It was a hard fought game in playoff-like conditions against a very good team. That experience could be golden come January.
The Sunday night loss means the team’s visit to Arrowhead next week is that much more important. With a Chiefs loss this week, the Broncos still sit a top the AFC West.
The Broncos need some life injected into them this week, and it may just come in the form of their coach. John Fox is scheduled to return to Denver on Wednesday. I can’t imagine he wouldn’t at least see his team before they head to Kansas City.
The Broncos are still in a nice boat because they control their own destiny. Just like they did with the loss to Indianapolis, the team needs to move on and get back on track. There’s too much season left to play to linger over this one.