Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) reacts after a play against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 43-21. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
The scoreboard really says it all. The Broncos got bludgeoned, embarrassed, and flat out-played in their loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
As poorly as the Broncos played, what’s worse is the way the game felt on the very first drive. The Broncos were playing scared. On their first two drives (two three-and-outs), they were ultra-conservative and made no real attempt to move the ball downfield. That attitude carried throughout the game, and Peyton Manning did what he seems to always do in tough road environments in his time with the Broncos — he floated passes, including an interception to Rob Ninkovich, who certainly isn’t some shut-down pass coverage linebacker.
Manning was flustered by pressure up the middle, which couldn’t be contained by the Broncos, and after it looked like a Bradley Roby interception and subsequent touchdown by the Broncos might have given them some momentum and a chance to get back into the game, Wes Welker got hit in a bad spot by one of Manning’s passes and it conveniently floated into the waiting arms of a Patriots defender.
If you want to know why the Broncos lost this game, I’ll give you three really good reasons.
1. 10 penalties for 72 yards.
2. Two turnovers
3. Punt return allowed for a touchdown
There are really no excuses for the Broncos getting beat in this game. They couldn’t cover Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, or really any of the Patriots’ offensive skill players. They couldn’t move the ball consistently on offense. They had no real running game. T.J. Ward had said after the game he felt like the Broncos had maybe played their worst football in this game. There’s really no maybe about it. This was a pitiful display of football and I was embarrassed to have been watching it.
It wasn’t all bad for the Broncos, who managed to scrape together 21 points in the losing effort, but I have five takeaways from this game that I think need some addressing immediately.
1. Road Wussies
To borrow from the film The Mighty Ducks a phrase that I think is appropriate for this situation, the Broncos looked like a bunch of “cake eaters” out there against the New England Patriots. How about a phrase from the legendary movie The Sandlot? The Broncos looked like a bunch of “L-7 weenies.”
This game was painful to watch from the very first drive the Broncos put forth because they looked like they were walking on eggshells. It looked like they wanted to be polite guests in the house that Brady built, not someone trying to come in and rip it apart from its foundation.
I’m so sick of the Broncos not having that killer instinct, specifically when they play a road game against a fellow contender, be it AFC or NFC. Since Manning came on as a Bronco, that has been a common theme. Just look at the last calendar year with games against the Patriots (x3), Seahawks (x2), Colts, and even looking back at the Falcons game from 2012, Manning’s first loss as a Bronco.
Going into a hostile environment, specifically to New England, has proven too much for Manning to handle. I’m not saying he has never won road games. I literally just named off all the road losses he’s had in his tenure with the Broncos, and they actually have a great road record with him at the helm — one of the best in the NFL. The problem is, they can’t beat the teams they have to beat in January and February on the road, and that is a horrible problem.
Too many mistakes, and too much getting down on themselves after making the mistakes. It’s a horrible pattern that needs to end at some point.
2. Nate Irving Loss
It sucks to see players get injured in the meaningless portion of a blowout loss. Nate Irving fell victim to that when he appeared to blow out his knee in this one. It’s really tough to watch a player in that much pain, and hopefully the prognosis is not as bad for Irving as it looked, but it looked bad and initial reports are he would miss some time.
With Danny Trevathan already out for pretty much all of the regular season, missing Irving would mean the dreaded injury bug has bitten the Broncos hard yet again.
Well-wishes to Irving as he hopefully makes a speedy recovery.
3. Andre Caldwell’s Time Is Up
Seriously, what are the Broncos doing here? Has Andre Caldwell done anything this season to warrant a job on this team, much less the trust of the coaching staff to be able to take the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs?
This guy has been flat out terrible this season after signing a brand spanking new contract in the offseason as one of the only Bronco players to be retained. He has been the primary kickoff return man, and has sucked. Hard.
Anytime he’s come into the game as a receiver, he’s either dropped passes or, like yesterday, was penalized because he didn’t line up in the right spot and covered up a lineman. I’m so sick of this guy being allowed and trusted when he consistently makes mistakes any other player would be in the doghouse at this point, and the Broncos finally pulled the plug later in the game and put Emmanuel Sanders in as the kick returner.
I don’t think Caldwell is going to get many more chances, and if he does, the coaching staff needs to have their heads examined.
4. John Elway’s Big Mistake
His name is Brandon McManus. Look, McManus can boom the football. He’s got a huge leg and I’m sure in practices he can make 60-yard field goals. However, in games, McManus has been really bad in the chances he’s been given. He previously had a bad hook on his kicks, something that appeared to have been corrected yesterday as his lone field goal attempt had a nice little fade or draw on it. That draw was just enough to push McManus’s field goal attempt right into the upright.
Matt Prater wasn’t the answer for the Broncos. He has struggled even with the Lions this season and was out of shape and a suspension waiting to happen. The Broncos went with the guy they originally put their faith into, and it was the wrong move, at least to this point.
5. It’s Not The End
This isn’t the end of the Broncos’ season, by any means. This one just sucks to have to swallow and it is even worse having been against the Patriots. For the third consecutive year with Peyton Manning as the quarterback, the Broncos have fallen victim to the Patriots on their home field. They better hope they are able to somehow win more games than New England in the regular season, because a post-season trip to Gillette stadium is apparently precisely what the Broncos need to avoid.
I’m sure these two teams will see each other again, the question is whether or not it will be in Denver, and if it’s not, whether or not the Broncos can pull off what they have made impossible for themselves.