The comeback appears to be over for the Denver Broncos. After starting the season a dismal 1-5, the Broncos came roaring back into the playoff picture, winning six of their next seven games. Unfortunately, three losses in the last four now have the team firmly outside the playoff picture with just two games remaining.
The Broncos haven't been able to take care of business down the stretch, a familiar feeling in the team's most recent playoff bids (2021, 2016). Unfortunately, it looks like the second-longest playoff drought in the NFL is about to be extended yet another season. The Broncos would have had a 42 percent chance at making the playoffs if they had beaten the New England Patriots on Christmas Eve, but after losing, those playoff odds have dipped to just five percent.
So, who is to blame for the team basically losing all playoff hope in Week 16?
1. Sean Payton, head coach
I think first and foremost, you have to point the finger at the head coach in this instance. Even if you don't want to argue about "play-calling" as a general discussion point, I think there's no question that play sequencing in this game from Sean Payton was sub-par at best. The Broncos had nothing working consistently on offense in this game until they got into desperation mode in the fourth quarter. And then when they finally tied the game in the 4th and had the ball with a chance to drive for the win, the play sequencing was once again highly questionable.
There was no timeout called to ice the kicker from 57 yards out at the end of the game, even though the kicker had already missed a pair of kicks in the game. Payton refused to let Bill Belichick take the game to overtime, which the Patriots were trying to do at the end of regulation, which would have -- likely at a minimum -- given his team a shot at swapping possessions.
You can argue not kicking a field goal on the first possession of the game for the Broncos and leaving points on the field.
Why is Jerry Jeudy not getting the ball (or even a target) until just over nine minutes left in the 4th quarter?
There were a lot of inexcusable miscues from Payton in this game for the Broncos and ultimately, decisions that cost the team the game.