- Another running back bites the dust. After a great start to the game, PJ Pope left the game with a hamstring injury--and though Selvin Young and Tatum Bell did their best to fill in, it was obvious that Pope was the best-prepared running back for the game. Unofficially, this was the millionth Broncos running back to leave a game because of an injury this year. Which is pretty freakin’ amazing.
- The Broncos offense notched up lots of yards but not a lot of points. Too many of their drives ended in field goals (or a missed field goal or a turnover late in the game) instead of touchdowns.
- Defense that gave up too many big plays.
- Defense that gave up too many yards after the first contact.
- The Broncos lost the turnover battle--and they didn’t win too many games this year where they were on the wrong side of that number.
- Cutler’s interception on the two yard line while driving for what would have been the winning score is far from his only turnover in the red zone this year. He’ll never not be compared to Elway while he plays in Denver, but while he has thrown for a ton of yards this season--more by far than Elway ever did in any single season during his career--he hasn’t really earned that Elway mantle yet. Elway started in five Super Bowls in his career. Elway had the Broncos in the playoff ten times during his career (including three of his first four seasons and a Super Bowl appearance in his fourth year). Cutler has the physical abilities to be an amazing quarterback, but he still has a good distance to go before he’s truly one of the elite players in the league.
- A final offensive series in the first half that was purely inept. It was an ugly series that carried over to their first few series of the second half. As brilliant as their first couple drives were, they never quite regained that original footing.
- The strategy of kicking short to keep the ball from the Bills’ returner ensured that the Broncos lost the war for field position in a really big way. Big and ugly.
- The Bills were down early but never lost composure. They played a smart, steady, and clean game and absolutely earned the win.
- The football gods thought that a final game showdown between San Diego and Denver--two of NFL’s most mediocre teams playing in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions--would be an awfully funny way to end the season for one of these nearly-deserving teams. Whoever wins next week (and, of course, I still hope it’s the Broncos) will be hard-pressed to say that they truly earned the trip to off-season glory. Although San Diego has gone on a late winning streak that has killed off the three game lead that the Broncos had with three games left in the season. Whatever happens, though, the AFC West will be sending an 8-8 team to the playoffs this season. The sense of pride would be minimal.
There have been a ton of injuries and some bad luck for the Broncos this year, but that’s just football. In the final analysis, barring some surprise Super Bowl, this is going to be a tremendously disappointing season. Much of the early season badness can be traced to a bad defense, but the late season mistakes seem just as likely to come from the offense, the special teams, or the coaching staff. There is tremendous talent on the offensive side of the ball and a few shining lights on defense, but they need consistency, passion, and more talent on defense (and to a lesser extent, on special teams) to make this a really good team.
They had their chances today, but they failed to capitalize time and again on those opportunities. As I said: disappointing.