Any loss in the NFL is going to send everyone’s eyes and blame to the quarterback, and for the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning on Monday night, the story was no different. With Manning’s season-high four interceptions, the Broncos simply couldn’t overcome what was a pretty sloppy game in all phases.
The Broncos had a burst of offense in the third quarter that gave them a 28-27 lead, and this game had a very similar feel to it that the Broncos’ win over the Miami Dolphins did. The Broncos were playing such ugly football, but hanging around on the scoreboard and eventually they figured it out and started to take over.
After Manning’s last touchdown pass of the night, the Broncos succumbed to the pressure of Cincinnati. Manning threw a couple of really head-scratching interceptions in the fourth quarter, and they weren’t able to overcome his mistakes or some very untimely penalties throughout the game.
Down by two points with a clear chance of taking the lead late in the game, Manning tried to throw a quick out route to Demaryius Thomas and it was picked off and taken to the house by Dre’ Kirkpatrick, the Cincinnati cornerback. This was the turning point of the game as far as Manning could carry it, but the situation was hardly his fault. The Broncos had played horribly on special teams throughout the night. They weren’t tackling defensively very well at all, and were getting out played physically by the Bengals on both sides of the ball.
In so many words, the Broncos simply didn’t want the game as much as the Bengals, or at least they didn’t appear as prepared. This is a huge problem and pattern for this team. The Broncos finish this season 4-4 on the road, and while they have a chance to win against Oakland on Sunday and still get a first round bye, this is a team that might have to go on the road to make it to the Super Bowl.
It would be a fitting challenge for a team that has played what I believe to be the toughest schedule in the NFL this year, but the Broncos and their fans certainly don’t prefer it. The issues we see with this team right now are ones that can be corrected, but we’ve been saying that all season long. At some point, the Broncos just have to figure these things out and execute within a game.
If you want to get deep into evaluation of this game, and we will, you’ll find that the problems facing the Broncos right now are plenty. They need to figure out a way to protect Peyton Manning better. They need to figure out how to tackle on special teams. They need to cut down on the stupid penalties that change the outcome of a game. They need to not allow themselves to get into a huge hole. They need to figure out what their problem is on the road.
There was plenty of positive to take from this game, and it was a play that didn’t even count that opened my eyes almost more than Emmanuel Sanders’ incredible one-handed catch. Peyton Manning felt pressure on a passing play that forced him to roll out to his right. Manning avoided the pressure, stepped up into the pocket and looked a little bit like Aaron Rodgers before throwing the ball off-balance into the arms of a wide open Demaryius Thomas.
It was an extremely athletic play that we haven’t seen Manning attempt really in the last couple of months, perhaps this season.
The play was nullified by a holding penalty on Ryan Clady, and really hurt the Broncos, but it happened nonetheless.
The sky isn’t falling yet for the Broncos. There is still one more tune-up game for them before the playoffs against the Raiders in Denver. They get a chance to close the season out at home, as well as begin the postseason in Denver. They need to win this weekend to get a first round bye and get some guys healthy for their first playoff game. You might not know it by the way Broncos fans were reacting last night, but there have been teams that have made it to and won the Super Bowl with four or more losses.
You can fact check that one, too.
There are issues to be figured out, but this Broncos team has faced any and everything they could possibly think of this season. They will be ready for a postseason run, and right now it’s time to get ready for the Oakland Raiders coming to town for the regular season finale.