The Broncos’ season has played a lot like a broken record. Countless turnovers, special team’s miscues, red zone deficiencies, and an inability to cover the tight end have played their tune. Sunday night against the New England Patriots was no different. In front of America, the Broncos were outcoached and outplayed in all three phases to lose their fifth straight 41-16.
The Broncos’ defense entered Sunday’s game poised to prove that the woes from a week ago were the exception and not the new norm. After Denver forced Tom Brady and company into an early three and out, the tone was set, at least for a moment. On the following play, rookie Isaiah McKenzie muffed the punt for his fifth fumble of the season. The Patriots would turn the mistake into a quick 14-yard touchdown from Brady to Patriots’ running back Rex Burkhead.
The special team’s disaster was just getting warmed up. The Broncos would go on to have a kick returned 103 yards by Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis for a touchdown. For an encore, Denver allowed Burkhead to make yet another play as he to flew through the gap to block a Riley Dixon punt.
“We gave up 24 points on (special) teams alone, but that wasn’t the only issue we had,” stated Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph.
Defensively, the Broncos have now given up a league leading 121 points in the last three weeks. Led by Brady, the Patriots would score on seven straight possessions. Brady finished 25 of 34 for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Brady put to rest the idea that he struggles in Denver.
The Broncos complete inability to cover the tight ends and running backs was yet again front and center. The Patriots’ trifecta of tight ends led by Rob Gronkowski found their way past defenders for a combined eight catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
“I got to get it done whether it’s coverage or the rush or whatever it may be,” declared Von Miller. “I have to make it happen. That’s the type of player that I am for this organization. I just haven’t been able to at this point in the season, but I’m a betting man and I’m going to bet on myself and I’m going to turn on and I’m going to get going.”
Broncos’ quarterback Brock Osweiler was actually the least of Denver’s worries. The Broncos offense moved the ball with ease between the 20s thanks to Osweiler and Broncos’ wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos’ wide out was the lone bright spot after finishing with six catches for 137 yards.
However, it didn’t matter. The Patriots continued to bend and not break in the red zone. The Broncos’ offense traded field goals for Brady touchdowns and Denver couldn’t keep up. Joseph did not state who would start at quarterback next week against the Bengals.
Twenty-two long months ago, Sport Authority Field at Mile High was rocking after Bradley Roby intercepted Tom Brady to seal the AFC championship game and send the Broncos to Super Bowl 50. On Sunday night, with less than two minutes to go, with Broncos fans long gone, chants of Brady echoed throughout the stadium.
“It’s sad, it’s real sad,” stated Broncos’ defensive end Derek Wolfe. “It’s sad that we went from being a championship caliber team to a team that stinks and nobody respects us.”
Where the Broncos go from here is unclear. For now, the stadium that was once a sea of fans united in orange bears not just a sign of a bankrupt company, but also of a team vacant of answers.