After the Broncos scrapped and clawed its way back into the playoff conversation, losing a down to the wire game against the Texans to fall back to .500 on the season feels like a gut punch. Denver had plenty of opportunities to seize the game, but Houston ultimately created more swing plays while the Broncos committed more mistakes- something they have little room for.
The phrase "margin of error" has been thrown around a lot in the aftermath of this game by fans, media, and even coaches. In his postgame press conference, Broncos head coach Sean Payton said the teams' margin for error was thin thanks to the slow start to the year, but they're still playing for a lot. Obviously, Payton was referring to the season in its entirety, but the phrase still rings true when discussing the Broncos on a game-by-game basis. Denver needs to play nearly mistake-free football in order to eke out wins, and it will be this way for the remainder of the season.
Having a small margin of error is not necessarily a bad thing. This is the NFL, where almost every game boils down to a handful of plays. There is no team that has much room for mistakes, but the Broncos specifically are a team that is not built to overcome its own setbacks. Against the Texans, Denver's offense did not convert a single third down, only came up with a touchdown in one of three red zone trips and turned the ball over three times. Meanwhile, the defense played a solid game, but still surrendered far too many explosive plays, and did not force any takeaways.
The Broncos winning formula this year has been predicated on generating takeaways and not turning the ball over on offense. They like to muddy up the game and capitalize on sloppy play from opponents. Failure to do this means almost certain defeat as the limitations of the roster keep Denver locked into a certain playstyle. Still, it is a formula that works, as evidenced by the Broncos' 5-1 record over its last six games. For this team to win games against quality opponents, they must dictate the game flow and avoid falling into multiple possession deficits. Against Houston, they simply failed to do so.
Quarterback Russell Wilson will get blamed for missing open receivers and turning the ball over, the offensive line will get blamed for not holding up well enough in pass protection, but truth be told, these are problems the Broncos have had to face and live with all season long. With about three quarters of the season already in the past, it's safe to say the Broncos are who they are.
The good news for Broncos fans is the teams winning formula is extremely doable. Running the football, playing good defense and not turning it over? That's just good fundamental football, and as mentioned earlier, the Broncos have proven they can win that way. While the loss to the Texans is a hard one to swallow, fans should not be too up in arms. The 2023 Denver Broncos are equally capable of producing miracles as they are heart breaks, it is who they are.
At 6-6, Denver is still in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt. With five games remaining including three pivotal divisional games, the Broncos can still make a final push for the postseason. No matter how it shakes out, I'm just glad to see our beloved Broncos play meaningful games in December. It had been far too long.