As the skies surrounding Sports Authority Field at Mile High turned orange, the sun set on the 2017 Broncos’ season. A Kansas City loss to the Giants earlier in the day gave the Broncos a fighting chance to get back in the hunt. However, the Broncos simply couldn’t get it done. The Bengals managed only 190 total yards, but it was still enough to hand the Broncos their sixth straight loss 20-17. The losing streak is the longest since 1990.
The Broncos’ special teams aimed to put last week’s debacle behind them quickly thanks to a blocked punt by Shaquil Barrett. Despite the momentum surge, Denver can’t seem to get out of their own way as turnovers continue to fill the stat sheet in bold letters.
On a third and four from the Bengals’ four yard line, Broncos’ quarterback Brock Osweiler threw a slant under pressure and into the hands of Bengals’ cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick who took the ball 101 yards down to the Broncos’ one yard line. Two plays later, Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton found tight end Tyler Kroft all alone in the end zone.
“I can’t turn the football over,” noted Broncos’ quarterback Brock Osweiler. “It’s something that we have talked about now going on over a month. You know just protect the football and have zero turnovers at the end of the game and see where we are. I think tonight if we would have played a brand of football like that we would have been in a much better position.” Osweiler finished with 254 yards and a touchdown on 42 attempts.
Denver’s defense kept the Broncos alive for most of the afternoon while holding Dalton to just 154 yards through the air. The run defense returned to form as well. The Bengals’ longest rush of the game was a mere eight yards. Although Dalton did connect when he had to and finished with three passing touchdowns.
Ultimately, it was another costly turnover by Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson that proved to be the difference. Trailing by three with 12:15 remaining in the game, Anderson rumbled forward only to have the ball pop free. The Bengals would capitalize with an 18-yard touchdown from Dalton to Bengals’ wide receiver A.J. Green.
“If I don’t do that then A.J. (Green) don’t score,” proclaimed an emotional Anderson. “Who knows how the outcome turns. That’s just on me. This (expletive) hurts. This (expletive) hurts. I put my heart and soul into this (expletive).”
The Broncos had one final chance to send the game into overtime if Osweiler could drive the Broncos 60 yards and into field goal range. Instead, the Broncos’ offense looked like it has all year, predictable and out of sync.
The Broncos now sit at 3-7 and while not mathematically eliminated just yet, their playoff chances are long gone. No NFL team has ever made the playoffs after a 3-7 start. Few could have predicted the dive the Broncos would take after starting 3-1 to now sitting in the basement of the league. If the draft were tomorrow, the Broncos would pick fourth behind the Browns, 49ers, and Giants. Where the Broncos go from here is unclear. Will the team hand the season over to Paxton Lynch in an effort to evaluate what their former first round pick truly has? For now, The 2017 Broncos tell the story of a team that no matter how hard it tries, can’t seem to get out of their own way.