Broncos Out-Foxed Again


In the movie Black Sheep, there’s a scene where Chris Farley’s character falls down a giant mountain. He tumbles, rolls and crashes all the way down, and when he finally hits the bottom he stands up disheveled, disoriented and injured. He slowly staggers to his feet and says, “What in the hell was that all about!?”

After the stunning loss to the Colts, that scene is basically what happened to the Broncos yesterday, and the fan base is left thinking, “What the hell was that all about!?”

Black Sheep is funny. Chris Farley was funny. Yesterday was not funny.

The Broncos were supposed to win this game, and win it easily. They were supposed to beat the Ravens two playoffs ago, and if they weren’t supposed to beat the Seahawks last year, they at least weren’t supposed to be embarrassed on the biggest stage of their lives.

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One heartbreaking and stunning loss could be an anomaly, two could be a coincidence, but three is a trend.

There’s no sugar-coating what happened yesterday. It was bad, it was ugly and it was unacceptable.

After an ugly loss like that with the talent the Broncos have all over their roster on both sides of the ball, somebody has to answer for another playoff meltdown.

John Fox is captain of the ship and his conservative, by-the-book, play-it-safe approach isn’t the stuff winners are made of, especially in today’s NFL. I personally have never been a fan of his approach.

Right from the start, when the Broncos ultimately lost to the Ravens two seasons ago, I can’t recall a more gutless, cowardly decision from a head coach than when the Broncos got the ball back after the miracle hail-mary TD. They had timeouts and enough time on the clock to go for the win. Instead Fox decides to pack it in, kneel on it and go to overtime.

That decision was perfectly indicative of the way he thinks and the way he coaches. He coaches scared. Never wants to make a mistake, always wants to be ultra conservative.

One could defend his coaching style if he had a Super Bowl ring to back it up, but no, sadly he does not have that. What he has is a 8-7 playoff record, 0-2 in Super Bowls and three straight pathetic losses in the playoffs with an all-time great QB and, this year, one of the most talented rosters the Broncos have ever assembled.

Fox was shell-shocked by the Ravens, panicked and resorted to a gutless decision. He all but admitted that he utterly failed to have the Broncos adequately prepared for the Super Bowl versus the Seahawks and now this Colts loss. The Broncos looked uninspired, listless and under prepared, again.

It’s time for Fox to go. I hope he doesn’t last the week.

As badly as Fox needs to go though, I will also admit the Colts loss was a multi-faceted failure.

The vaunted pass-rushing tandem of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller were totally MIA. Luck was throwing from a luxury suite of a pocket almost the entire game. If Von Miller wants to be known as one of the premier defensive players in the NFL, he cannot disappear in huge games like that. JJ Watt doesn’t disappear, he makes his presence felt. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware had almost no presence.

Aqib Talib played the worst game of his season, and I’d bet one of the worst games of his career. He continuously got used by TY Hilton and then resorted to holding time and time again.

Peyton Manning looked old, injured and every bit the 38 years-old he is. There are reports coming out that he has had a torn quad since the Chargers game. I’ll be the first one to give him the benefit of the doubt, but for whatever reason you want to ascribe to his performance, it was awful.

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reacts as he sits on the ground after being sacked in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos took a lot of heat for throwing so many deep passes, but the critics are missing one big point, the routes were open. They were there for touchdowns, particularly the one to Demaryius Thomas. He had his man beat easily and a nice throw to the middle of the field is a walk-in TD, but the throw sailed 5 yards over his wrong shoulder and almost out of bounds.

Emmanuel Sanders had his man beat nearly every time, but was overthrown every time.

However, the one play that summed up Manning’s performance best was the drive coming out of half. The Broncos faced a 3rd and 5 on a tone-setting, important drive and Manning rolled out to his right with Sanders 15 yards down field, tightly covered, and nobody within 15 yards of Manning. He could have used a walker and strolled his way to a 7 yard gain and a big first down, but he didn’t want to run. He threw it to Sanders who nearly made a great catch but couldn’t get his foot down and the Broncos were punting, again.

Only Manning can truly know how much the thigh injury affected his play. He will have to dig down deep and decide if he can heal up and still be an effective NFL QB.

If the Broncos are getting the Manning back who played yesterday for next season, then he needs to retire.

If they are getting the Manning they had for the first two and a half seasons, then let’s do a swan song next year.

I am personally hoping and praying that his performance over the final 6 games was all injury related, because I would love nothing more than a healthy, effective Manning to come back for one more year, knowing it’s his final year. It could be an epic, win-one-for-the-gipper type of year.

Ultimately though, the blame for yesterday’s loss falls squarely on John Fox. It is his job to put his players in the best possible position to succeed. He should know what his players are capable of and game plan to help them succeed as best they possibly can. He utterly failed in this regard.

His conservative, safe approach doesn’t inspire his teams with confidence or swagger. Now three years in with the Broncos and 13 years into a coaching career, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that his approach inspires his teams to mediocre, uninspired performances in the biggest moments.

The Broncos were once again out-coached yesterday and I personally don’t want to stomach another year of John Fox and his bland, conservative, timid coaching style.