Fresh off one of their worst losses in the Peyton Manning era, the Denver Broncos season could be nearing a crisis point. The Rams battered and bruised the Broncos, exposed their offensive line and won handily 22-7 on Sunday.

But, could the result have been different had the Broncos gotten within three or even taken the lead before halftime? Maybe.

Here’s what went down.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders caught a much-needed touchdown with 2:22 left in the second quarter to cut the St. Louis lead to 13-7. After the Rams converted a first down on the first play of their ensuing drive, they stalled. A dump pass to Benny Cunningham netted no yards right after the two-minute warning and St. Louis let the play clock run all the way down before snapping it on 2nd and 10 with 1:18 left in the half.

On that play, Cunningham gained six yards to set up third-and-four with about 1:10 left on the clock. The Broncos, with all three timeouts and the league’s most-explosive offense, would have been wise to call timeout, but didn’t.

This left Manning steamed. As I sat above the Broncos bench, I watched what went down next; what the TV cameras didn’t show.

With my own eyes: A fuming Peyton Manning on the sideline yelling at John Fox for no timeout after second down. Wow.

— Will Petersen (@PetersenWill) November 16, 2014

Manning was furious. He and Fox in mini- verbal altercation.

— Will Petersen (@PetersenWill) November 16, 2014

.@VicLombardi After 2nd down. Manning stormed off bench & went straight to Fox. Couldn’t believe he didn’t call timeout. Lasted 30 seconds.

— Will Petersen (@PetersenWill) November 16, 2014

To provide even more context, Manning was on the bench by himself during the second-down carry. Immediately after the play (once he realized timeout was inexplicably not being called) he briskly approached Fox. The two exchanged words for several seconds before Manning turned around in disgust and headed back toward the bench. Fox briefly followed Manning, another set of words appeared to be exchanged, and then Fox turned around and went back to the sideline.

By this time, the Rams were about to run their third-down play, with under 30 seconds left. A Cunningham run netted just one yard and Fox used his first timeout of the half with just 23 seconds to go.

After the game, Fox had an interesting explanation, that quite frankly didn’t make sense, about his bizarre strategy.

“We contemplated it from both sides. We would get the ball at the start of the third quarter. I have been on both sides of that, but it worked out fine for what we were trying to get accomplished. I have been on both sides, if you get too cute, the other team can go down and score,” Fox said.

The first problem with that justification is the Rams were clearly in ultra-conservative mode before half. They made a conscious effort to keep the clock running with very safe play calling. They had no intentions of trying to score.

Second, if Fox truly just wanted the ball at the start of the third quarter, why in the world was timeout called with 23 seconds left? The Rams were content to go to half right then and there, and apparently so was Fox; at least according to his postgame comments, but not his on the field actions.

Manning put his helmet on in disgust and begrudgingly took a knee with just 16 seconds to go and the Broncos on their own 17 after an uneventful punt resulted in a fair catch.

Manning was political when asked about the sequence of events after the game.

“Certainly any time they tell us to go score, that’s what you want to do. He (head coach John Fox) had a feel. He told me we get the ball first in the second half and it had kind of been a grind the entire first half. We did score on a third-down play on our last possession, but he just said, ‘We get the ball first in the second half, let’s go do it,’” Manning said.

Manning did make sure to note the Sanders score, which could have been a potential momentum builder, but Fox seemingly killed that before half by making sure his Hall of Fame QB didn’t get the ball back with any real time to work with.

The Broncos didn’t score on the first drive of the second half Fox talked so highly about, or the rest of the game for that matter.

It’s unlikely the two will ever speak of the mini-squabble on the sideline, but this much is clear: Peyton Manning wasn’t happy with John Fox.

Fox’s explanation afterward left plenty to be desired as well.

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