On Monday Night Football, the Denver Broncos showed the world they could slow down the NFL’s offensive juggernaut until they couldn’t.
For the first three quarters of the game, the Broncos dialed up a game plan that was good enough to stifle the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense and make their defense look just as bad as everyone knew it was with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay pounding their way to more than 100-yards rushing.
They held Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes to a measly 65 passing yards in the first half and shut out All-Pro
Then the fourth quarter happened.
Patrick Mahomes went off on the Broncos secondary for 153 yards in the final quarter alone, leading the Chiefs on two touchdown drives to wipe out the Broncos 10-point lead for a 27-23 win.
With 304 yards, Mahomes ended the Broncos’ 36-game streak of holding opposing quarterbacks to fewer than 300 yards.
It seemed that the Broncos abandoned what was working in the first
Instead, they went three-and-out and used up just over a minute of game clock. Punter Marquette King then proceeded to infuriate fans even more by sending a punt out of bounds for just 35 yards when he needed to pin the Chiefs far back in their own territory.
This set the Chiefs up at their own 40-yard line against a Broncos defense that had just spent over six minutes of game-clock time on the field with only a few minutes of rest.Embed from Getty Images
When the Broncos covered Kelce with a corner, he was non-existent. But when defensive coordinator Joe Woods changed his approach and put a linebacker on Kelce he couldn’t be stopped. After being shut out in the first half, Kelce ended the game with seven catches for 78 yards (11.1 yd avg) and a touchdown.
Yes, the referees missed an obvious delay of game penalty against the Chiefs that could have potentially stalled their drive and may have cost the Broncos the game. But even after all of that, the Broncos still had a chance to come back and win the game. They had the ball at their 25 with just under two minutes and were only down by four points.
Case Keenum was sacked for
Then Keenum missed on three throws, including one to Demaryius Thomas that probably would have resulted in a game-winning touchdown.
Both Keenum and Thomas were at fault as it seemed Thomas wasn’t going full-speed until he realized the ball was in the air, which is a big deal because timing is such a key element between quarterback and wide receiver that Keenum likely assumed Thomas would be closer to where he placed the ball, but Keenum also needs to recognize where his receivers are and adjust his throws accordingly.
The last play of the game for the Broncos was a desperation catch and pitch that resulted in a fumble recovered by the Chiefs but was ultimately ruled an incomplete pass, thus quashing any hope of a miracle comeback in a game the Broncos had control of until it mattered at the end.Embed from Getty Images
There is plenty of blame to go around: From poor officiating to poor play calling to poor performance — on both sides of the ball and special teams — when it mattered most.
Reporters and fans alike noticed the frustration of players towards the officials and their own coaches on the sidelines and in the locker room. This is not a good sign for a team that really needs to turn things around before they get worse.
Predictably, some fans are calling for general manager John Elway to fire Joseph and Woods, replace Keenum with backup Chad Kelly, and find more defensive help. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that.
Just as there aren’t really good players just sitting around on their couches waiting for a team to call them four weeks into the season, there probably aren’t many options for coaching replacements either. If the Broncos continue the trend of where they are now, Joseph won’t last the season, but it’s hard to imagine what better options are out there at this moment in the season.
On paper, the Broncos have what should be a more manageable opponent next week against the Sam Darnold-led New York Jets, albeit at MetLife Stadium with what would be an 11:00 kickoff in Denver, before facing the Los Angeles Rams, the best team in the NFC, and the only team other than the Chiefs to remain unbeaten through the opening four weeks. Oh, and let’s not forget Wade Phillips
These next two weeks could be very telling for this frustrated Broncos team.