The Broncos' playoff hopes are technically over as they lost by a score of 26-23 to the New England Patriots at home in the first one out of their "Win-Out and you are In" games. Overall, a disastrous way to get punched in the face by a three-win New England Patriots led by Bailey Zappe, and without two of their best offensive weapons in running back Rhamondre Stevenson and tight end Hunter Henry.
With the loss, the Broncos' season is over. Mathematically they can still make it, but to control their path, they needed to win this one, and the next two. Lost the first one out of the three = season over.
This one was a very heartbreaking loss and a heartbreaking way to get spoiled on Christmas Eve, but the article is needed to be done.
With the above being said, let's take a look at the key takeaways from the game ...
1. Sean Payton had one of those HC bad games when it mattered the most:
Yes, Sean Payton has been a great head coach, but Sunday was one of those bad days for the head coach. The Broncos were in a "win-out and you are in" situation against a 3-11 New England Patriots team, but could not take advantage of it. Sean had an overall bad game ... playcalling, game management, and timeouts ...
4th and goal after a turnover and do not kick a field goal after the offense did not execute in the previous three plays, three points that in the end, cost the game. Called a ton of run plays when Javonte was running into the Patriots' defenders.
Scored two consecutive touchdowns, a tie game, and the defense stepped up by forcing a punt. The Broncos had the ball with 1 minute and 42 seconds left in the game, and negative three yards in three plays! Payton was very aggressive in the previous two drives, and called a screen pass for negative yardage with the game on the line ... simply an awful and unacceptable drive, which forced Denver to punt from their 36-yard line.
Lastly, timeouts. Yes, I understand that Sean wanted to get the ball with enough time, so used two timeouts, but it seemed that New England was taking the game to overtime. Instead, the Patriots got into field goal range. Chad Ryland, New England's kicker, had already missed an extra point and a 47-yard field goal earlier in the game. Why with 7 seconds left in the game and one timeout you do not call it? You had nothing to lose by calling that timeout and possibly distracting the kicker, especially being a 57-yard attempt and no time after if he missed. The game could have gone to overtime if Ryland missed.
2. Huge defensive turnover to start the game ruined by Javonte Williams:
New England started the game on offense, and on their very first play, the Broncos had a huge strip sack on Bailey Zappe, Denver ball, first and goal on the Patriots' 6-yard line.
Once again a huge way to start the game. I thought that it could have been a blowout, or at least a big Broncos game after that turnover, but in the end, it was not. It was a great defensive play to get positive momentum going, but running back Javonte Williams could not punch the ball to get a touchdown, despite getting three carries. The Broncos failed to score on fourth down.
Sean Payton should be blamed here too for his bad playcalling on the opening offensive drive, and overall in most of the game. If you see that Javonte Williams is not getting good yardage on the first down and on the second down, why do you give him the ball again on the fourth down? If you still want to run the ball, give it to another running back, or let Russell Wilson scramble. Kick the short field goal on fourth down if you do not see good results from your offense on the previous three plays. New England started badly offensively, get points! Denver ended up losing by 3 points ... if they had kicked that field goal ...
5 yards on three carries inside the 6-yard line. 24 total yards on 11 carries, 2.2 YPC. Shame on you, Javonte Williams.
3. Defensive Tackling SUCKS:
Same thing with this defense every single game. Tons of missed tackles that finish in good plays for the opposing team. A fundamental thing in this sport. Something that must be corrected as soon as possible.
If this team cannot tackle ... things might go from bad to awful.
4. The Broncos have a Courtland Sutton-dependent offense apparently:
The Broncos' best offensive weapon, receiver Courtland Sutton got injured early in the game and was ruled out. A head injury that got him into the concussion protocol. Once Sutton got hurt, the offense struggled and struggled badly for nearly three quarters. He was missed by Russell Wilson.
5. Bill 'big balls' O'Brien:
Yes, the Patriots had nothing to lose in this game, since they were already eliminated from playoff contention, and losing games could be beneficial for them, especially if they want to get a new franchise quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft, but the way the Pats got into field goal range to win the game ... wow.
New England had a 3rd down and 3 on their 26-yard line with 47 seconds left on the game clock, they could have just run to get four more opportunities, but instead, Zappe connected with DeVante Parker, who had only 38 yards in the game and over Denver's best defender in Pat Surtain for a 27-yard play to get into great field position. A huge play call by New England's offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
6. At least the Broncos did not get exposed like that in the playoffs:
Something that keeps going through my head following the disastrous loss to the New England Patriots is that if the Broncos wanted to get into the playoffs they needed to beat the Pats, and they looked very bad by not doing it. But on the other side of the situation ... if you are getting exposed by Bailey Zappe at home in primetime, you would have been DESTROYED by any strong AFC team in the playoffs.
Happy Holidays Broncos Country!