Merry Christmas, Bronco fans, and have a Happy New Year knowing that the Broncos will not be breaking your heart with some lousy first round playoff loss because, well, they won’t be making the playoffs this year. Period.
The holidays for those of us who religiously wear the blue and orange were scrooged last weekend when the Buffalo Bills came into a frigid Invesco Field at Mile High and beat the fledgling Broncos 30-23 and, perhaps, took Denver’s playoff season away from them.
Denver must now do the impossible and go into San Diego on Sunday night and beat another trashy team – something they have yet to accomplish this year, with losses against Oakland and Kansas City as evidence.
Two games ago, Denver faced a challenge that every Bronco fan knew could be a serious problem: They had to win one, just one, game out of three to make it into the playoffs. Simple enough, right? Well, here we are after losses against Carolina and Buffalo, still without a win. Now San Diego wants in, and they have the better team.
Going into last Sunday’s game against Buffalo, I thought that game was Denver’s chance, if they had one, to get in. So did the Broncos. We all knew they were going to lose to Carolina, who is as good as any team in the league. Buffalo had a fall from grace. Remember when they were the only undefeated team? Then they lost their mojo, lost a ton of games (seven of eight) and found themselves out of the playoff race. But for some reason, Buffalo, despite no future this year, finds a way to win on Sunday.
Denver, on the other hand, has everything to play for and the team and its coaches fail to show up to produce a win. Quarterback Jay Cutler had a decent day. Yes, he threw five incomplete passes in the final series, which could have at least tied the game if they had made it into the end zone, but he ran for two touchdowns. Cutler also threw for 359 yards establishing a team single-season passing record for yards at 4,210 and 351 completions.
Cutler could have been a little sharper, but without what he did with his feet, the Broncos could have been embarrassed.
I don’t blame Cutler. In fact, I think his two rushing touchdowns are something head coach Mike Shanahan should put in his back pocket when the Broncos are having trouble scoring once they get into the red zone. How many times this year have you screamed at the TV screen for Cutler to run the ball? He needs to go Elway-style with the best play of the 1980s-90s – the good old “Sprint Option Right.” Do we not run that play anymore? With Cutler’s size and toughness, the play can’t be stopped. I would prepare my offense for more Cutler running next weekend.
“You see our quarterback running downfield. He's not running out of bounds. He's lowering his shoulder, making plays,” Broncos guard Chris Kuper told The Denver Post after playing with a broken hand last weekend.
You also can’t blame the offensive line for Sunday’s loss against the Bills. They worked hard and gave Cutler plenty of time to throw the ball. The receivers could have had a better day. Besides some late-game dropped passes, the receivers are pulling through in catching the ball at least some of the time. I guess it’s the defense that pissed the Broncos season away.
No tackling, no pass rush and no big plays are killing the Denver Broncos. If I were an offensive coordinator preparing my team to play Denver, I would have no conservative running plays in my scheme. It would be air it out every down. Denver is the worst at blowing big plays and it pains me to say so. So there is the Broncos season in a nutshell: They can’t stop the big play.
I wish I could say the Broncos have a shot at beating the Chargers. Oh, how I wish I could. But they don’t. They have blown everything that has been given to them this season. This has been a season where Denver has been in the playoffs not because of good or extraordinary play. They were in the playoff race because they were not as bad as other teams, but they didn’t take advantage of that scenario when they had the opportunity to do so. Now, those worse, trashy teams are climbing higher than the sinking Broncos.
For whatever it’s worth, at least we know they can’t beat good teams either, which is precisely what they were going to have to do in the first round of the playoffs. The Broncos’ gig is up. They were never that good this year. They were just riding the wave of other teams’ demise. Now that demise is theirs.
What a disappointment. Who is to blame here? Is the end of Shanahan coming near in Denver? It is certainly worth talking about. Especially if that discussion involves the name Kubiak.