This season has been anything but conventional in Denver and the playoffs won’t be any different. After a completely wretched home loss on Sunday, the Broncos backed their asses into the playoffs, not by winning but by being just a tad better than the Oakland Raiders. All Denver had to do on Sunday was beat a newly improved Chiefs team and they would win their way to the playoffs. If for some reason they couldn’t beat the Chiefs, well then, Bronco fans would have to rely on the Raiders to lose, and Denver would still be in.
Of course, this scenario is exactly the way it played out. All us fans should have seen this a mile away. Leave it to the Raiders to give Denver an AFC West Championship and a berth into the playoffs.
I spoke with several Broncomaniacs outside the stadium after Sunday’s loss and everyone seemed really depressed about the way it all went down. I was elated we’d made the playoffs and couldn’t understand their gloom.
“We don’t deserve a playoff spot,” one big bearded man told me. “We just don’t deserve a spot.”
“I can’t believe we are sending this team to the playoffs,” a Tebow-jersey-clad gal said. “We’ll never get past the first round. What’s the point?”
What’s the point? What’s the point? The point is the Broncos are AFC West Champions and Denver, not Oakland, not San Diego, not Kansas City, is going to the playoffs. Remember the time when Denver’s entire season seemed to be a bust? Denver was playing for nothing.
I tried to explain this to those sad fans on that cold Colorado evening but their frowns wouldn’t budge. Perhaps they didn’t swill as much expensive 3.2 beer as I did that afternoon? I was jolly as hell that the Broncos lived to play another day, despite the fact they were only able to score one field goal.
With most good morning sports talk radio shows still on holiday vacation on Monday morning, I was forced to turn the radio dial to ESPN Radio where the ever-annoying Colin Cowherd was squawking his daily diatribe. This guy is so annoying that he actually gave his listeners advice that they should pay more attention to their wives instead of watching sports. It’s not that I disagreed with him, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d tuned in to hear on a three-hour sports talk radio show. Give me a break.
Anyway, in the two minutes I listened to the jackass on Monday morning, he trashed Tebow in every way possible, saying Tebow was horrible when he got his first start and he’s still horrible. And then he called Denver fans righteous for loving Tebow so much and believing in him. It was at that point I realized Cowherd must not have watched the game I watched, or that his extreme dislike for Tebow is actually more pigheaded than Denver fans’ love of Tebow. Frankly, Tebow didn’t play all that bad. It was the entire offense that played horrible on Sunday.
Denver started off the game acting like it was going to run the ball all day to win the game. That didn’t work. They tried short passes. That didn’t work. Long passes. No. An option? Defense saw it coming a mile away. In the end Tebow completed only 6 of 22 attempts for 60 yards against the Chiefs and gave up a crucial fumble when the Broncos finally looked like they might score in the first half.
OK, so the fumble hurt real bad and was very disappointing, and Tebow should be harshly criticized for it. His numbers were not impressive. But from where I was sitting, in section 512, row 21, I could see that Denver’s main problem on Sunday was the fact that their receivers had absolutely no ability to get open. Not on short throws, not on long throws. Denver’s offensive line gave Tebow plenty of time, but there was just nobody open all day long. It was so frustrating to see.
Here’s what Tebow didn’t do. He didn’t force throws to covered receivers (except for a last play desperation throw) and get intercepted. Tebow was smart with keeping control of the ball. Tebow kept the Broncos in the game.
The biggest concern I had after the loss was Denver’s play calling. The Chiefs seemed to know exactly when and were the ball was going at all times. I think Denver should have opened up throwing a bit more and then ground ‘n’ pound later in the game. Of course, Denver’s play calling ability is limited to Tebow’s ability but in reality, Tebow could have played a hell of a lot worse on Sunday.
With that, here’s to head coach John Fox getting crafty this week. Denver must find a creative way to move the ball and score. They need to get back to surprising teams with their offense rather than boring them.
Do I think there is a chance on Sunday? Can the Broncos beat the Steelers in Denver? Well, the Steelers are hobbled with injuries, including their top running back Rashard Mendenhall, so that’s a feather in our cap. Remember last year’s playoffs when the 7-9 Seahawks beat the pants off the Saints in the first round? That’s proof that anything can happen.
If Tebow and the boys can just keep things close on Sunday, anything is possible. Remember, damn it, Denver didn't just make the playoffs by sliding into a wildcard spot. Denver enters the playoffs as AFC West Champions. Perhaps on Sunday, the Broncos will start acting like it.