Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry (95) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Well, looks like the Broncos’ playoff road will not be easy in 2015.
The Broncos lost their only chance to at least have a shot for homefield advantage when they came into Cincinnati and were dealt a heartbreaking 37-28 loss. In a game that seemed like momentum played a huge part in the game, in the end the Broncos could not make the plays to win the game. In fact, Peyton Manning’s last two interceptions gift-wrapped a playoff berth for the Bengals.
The run defense played its worst game, allowing Jeremy Hill to run all over them in the tune of 147 yards. Granted, 85 of those yards came on one play, it is still inexcusable for the No. 2 ranked run defense to allow that. Andy Dalton was not brilliant, but he readjusted after throwing a pick-six to Aqib Talib to start the game. The Bengals defense was brilliant most of the game as they completely manhandled the offensive line and put Manning under pressure all game.
For the first time in a Broncos uniform, Manning threw four interceptions. Which is uncharacteristic. Special teams could not tackle for squat, some bone-headed penalties, (including one by Demaryius Thomas that was questionable in my opinion) and the defense could not tackle or get off the field in key situations. While the scoreboard only saw the Broncos lose by nine points, it was an ugly game when you really look at it.
It was clear that the team was missing those key players that can do some damage for the team. This is why I think the Broncos need to win against Oakland on Sunday for the playoff bye. This is a team that really needs it, not for the automatic advance to the divisional round and a home playoff game, but this team has played every week since Week 5. The Broncos were unfortunate to have their bye week early on in the season. It showed last night that the team is tired and could use a rest. The playoff bye could also help get key players healthy, especially those on the defensive side of the ball. Having Brandon Marshall back would be huge and it could help T.J. Ward as long as his injury is not considered serious to miss significant time.
The playoff hopes for Denver did lose its chance to stay at home for the entire postseason, but it all depends on how you finish a season. The sky is not falling on this team, but this team does need rest and a win against Oakland will give this team that much needed rest before they begin their playoff quest. It is clear that the team has a lot to iron out if they are going to have any shot at making some noise in the playoff hunt.