THIS JUST IN: it was just announced on the Sunday Night Football halftime show by SI’s, Peter King. Our own Peyton Manning was just voted as Sports Illustrated‘s “Sportsman of the Year” for 2013! Congratulations, Peyton!
I have purposely delayed this article because I did not want my negative emotions to get the best of me. You know, flying four-letter words, questioning players’ heart, etc. That might have been detrimental to my writing career…and probably my health. So I will let a (slightly) cooler head prevail.
They say time heals all wounds. When it comes to some Denver Broncos‘ losses, time only takes some of the sting out of them. In the wake of their 27-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night, my wound still requires stitches. It’s not that 13-3 is a great numeric difference from 14-2. Denver still has the the tiebreaker for the division over the Kansas City Chiefs as a result of a season series sweep. And thanks to the Miami Dolphins defeat of the New England Patriots Sunday, the road to Super Bowl XLVIII still goes through (Sports Authority Field at) Mile High Stadium.
<A.D.D. moment: I am all about tradition, but the use of Roman numerals as it relates to the Super Bowl is one that I would not be sorry to see go. After 39, I need help with the translation>
The problem for me is the fact that Denver has never gone to the Super Bowl when they have finished 13-3. In fact, the three most demoralizing playoff losses have come after a 13-3 regular season; 1984, 1996, and 2012. The only time the Broncos have made it as far as the AFC title game following a 13-3 record was in 2005. That year they were given a gift by the Pittsburgh Steelers which made it possible for the Broncos to host that game. As rude hosts, Denver re-gifted the offering from Pittsburgh and gave it right back to them. The Steelers responded in kind with a 34-17 drubbing of Jake Plummer and the Broncos. I wrote about this in an article posted on Predominantly Orange in January. I thought it was a pretty good read. More importantly, it also makes my case for why the week 15 loss to San Diego is a devastating blow to Denver’s super bowl hopes.
The only good this week was the two-touchdown performance by the forth wide receiver on the depth chart, Andre’ Caldwell. Bubba (Caldwell) caught 6 passes for 59 yards to go along with his two scores. Caldwell saw significant playing time Thursday due to the post concussion symptoms suffered by Wes Welker in week 14. The rest of the team was horrible! So I am taking my “The Good:” category this week and hiding it! Blah!
The Bad: What in the heck wasn’t bad about the loss to the Chargers? The defense stunk! They couldn’t get off the field all night. The Chargers punched the Broncos in the mouth in the trenches; winning the time of possession battle 38:49 to 21:11. While they did sack Phillip Rivers twice, they did not put a whole lot of pressure on him. They also could not stop the Chargers on the ground as they ran over the Broncos for 177 yards; highlighted by Ryan Matthews‘ 29 carries for 127 yards and one score. Don’t get me wrong, this defense is not to be confused, by any means with the 1985 Bears or 1976 Steelers but this was their worst effort of the year. Yes, even worse than in New England and Dallas. If San Diego was concerned more so with explosiveness than it was about ball control, they would have hung 48+ points on these guys. The bottom line is, the team itself will not make any excuses for their performance, so don’t expect any from me.
<Another A.D.D. Moment: Now that I ponder it, Danny Trevathan had a good game too. He posted 7 solo tackles and 3 helpers. But then again, he really didn’t have much of a choice since he was on the field so much…somebody had to make tackles>
As a result of the one-sided T.O.P. by the Bolts, Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense did not see the field enough to get into their normal rhythm. To make matters worse, Denver’s running attack stunk too! The offensive line also got beaten up. Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno accrued only 18 net yards for 1.8 yards per carry and one rushing first down. Needless to say, the running game was anemic.
The Ugly: If you have read enough of my work here, you know my mantra when it comes to “The Ugly”…FREAKING TURNOVERS!!!! The problem is, I really cannot blame this performance (or lack thereof) on turning the ball over. PFM only threw one interception and the Broncos did not put the ball on the ground. It’s not as if we had the “Turnover Machine” that is lil’ Bro, Eli (Sorry again, Eli…it’s just low-haniging fruit). The biggest beef I have with turnovers is that Denver did not force any of their own. We will need to see a more opportunistic defense from this point on if there is going to be a deep playoff run.
When it comes to penalties, it was not the number of penalties or the yardage lost on the penalties. Rather, it was the timing. And by timing I mean one of the dumbest, worst timed offside penalty I can remember. With 8:28 left in the third quarter, the defense actually stiffened and forced a San Diego punt. Alas, on 4th and 4, Nate Irving jumped offside. The five yard infraction gave the Chargers a fresh set of downs. A minute and a half later, Denver again got flagged, this time for an undisciplined 12 man on the field penalty. Fortunately the Bolts did not score on that drive, but they did run over eight minutes off the clock.
In all honesty, the ugliest thing was the game as a whole. The Broncos as a whole played the part of the “Not Ready for Prime Time” players. Even Manning’s 27 for 41, 289 yards and 2 TDs seemed as disjointed as the rest of the team. Aside from the two touchdown drives, they seemed flat all night.
The Taste of Crow: So in last week’s recap article I was rather condescending toward former Broncos’ offensive coordinator and current Chargers’ head coach, Mike McCoy. I treated comments made by McCoy arrogantly. McCoy guaranteed a win and I made a joke about it as if it was an improbability. While it was a humorous, entertaining read, I’m humbled by the fact that McCoy got the last laugh. If there is anybody who knows how to prepare for the Broncos, it would be McCoy. I should have thought about that before spouting off like Old Faithful. The fact is he was a very good OC for Denver and is rounding into a fine head coach in the home of Ron Burgandy. So congratulations, coach! That was a job well done.
<Memo to the readers…if I am dumb enough to talk that kind of smack again, post a comment and remind me to smack myself upside the head. I violated my #1 superstition: NO pre-game smack talk on behalf of any of my teams, in any sport; nor do I wager on my team. It is just bad luck! Sorry, Bronconians. I will not let that happen again. I am such a believer of that superstition, that there will be no talk of THAT game which is played on the first Sunday in February. In fact, I shall not even mention it by name, nor the relationship of it to our Broncos for the remainder of the year and playoffs>
Up Next: The Broncos’ final two regular season games are one the road. They travel to Reliant Stadium to face old friend, Gary Kubiak…oh, wait, not anymore…old friend, Wade Phillips and the Houston Texans. At the start of the season, this was anticipated as a game that was going to have big playoff implications. Unfortunately for the Texans, a rash of serious injuries to key players and some really poor play at the quarterback position have them in a battle for the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft instead of football supremacy. Kickoff is set for 11:00 A.M. Elway Standard Time on the Columbia Broadcasting System…better known as CBS.