Siemian nearly ral­lied Bron­cos at Ten­nessee

They are all in now with the first-year start­ing QB

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke Nick Groke: ngroke@den­ver­post.com or @nick­groke

nashville, tenn.» His jersey hang­ing half-off, shoul­der pad ex­posed, limp­ing, shrug­ging, barely held to­gether. Trevor Siemian looked like a rag doll in the third quar­ter here Sun­day. This is the quar­ter­back the Bron­cos are pin­ning their play­off hopes on.

In a game the Bron­cos said was “now-orn­ever,” be­fore three more that qual­ify in the same way, Siemian brought the Bron­cos back to life in the fourth quar­ter. The firstyear starter flung a flat-lined of­fense on his back and ral­lied them late be­fore fi­nally fall­ing 13-10 to Ten­nessee.

“He did ev­ery­thing he could pos­si­bly do,” Den­ver coach Gary Ku­biak said. “We just didn’t do enough.”

If the Bron­cos, cur­rently hold­ing the No. 6 and fi­nal spot in the AFC play­off field, sneak into the post­sea­son af­ter three more games — against New Eng­land, at Kansas City and Oak­land, the tough­est re­main­ing sched­ule in the league — it will be Siemian car­ry­ing them on a sprained left foot and an aching left shoul­der.

Den­ver’s run de­fense is dead. Be­tween Devon­tae Booker and newly signed Justin Forsett, the Bron­cos ran nine times against the Ti­tans for 18 yards. That is the third-low­est sin­gle-game rush­ing to­tal in the Bron­cos’ 57 sea­sons as a fran­chise. They last ran for as few as 18 yards in 2013 against San Diego.

That left ev­ery­thing up to Siemian. The 24-year-old threw for 334 yards, a ca­reer­high to­tal in a four-quar­ter game. Two weeks ago he threw for 340 yards in an over­time loss to Kansas City. He out­du­eled Mar­cus Mar­i­ota, the much-hyped Ti­tans quar­ter­back who threw for 88 yards and com­pleted all of six passes.

“I think we have the right group to do it,” Siemian said of Den­ver’s play­off chances. “It’s go­ing to be an awe­some chal­lenge.”

The real chal­lenge is find­ing much hope in the Bron­cos’ of­fense. They were once again grue­some in the first half, run­ning one play in Ten­nessee ter­ri­tory. The Ti­tans ran 24 plays in Den­ver ter­ri­tory in that span.

It was a mi­nor mir­a­cle Den­ver trailed just 13-0 at half­time. Af­ter Ten­nessee free safety Kevin Byard leaped into his chest on a un­con­tested blitz, Siemian looked shot, limp­ing around with a sprained foot and a shoul­der that was dis­lo­cated ear­lier this sea­son.

Ku­biak all but aban­doned the run game in the sec­ond half, in­stead ask­ing Siemian to toss his team to vic­tory. It al­most hap­pened, thanks to the play of wide re­ceivers De­mary­ius Thomas and Em­manuel San­ders. Siemian’s 3-yard pass to San­ders in the fourth quar­ter put the Bron­cos on the board for the first time, com­plet­ing a 26-yard drive, a short field set up by an ex­cel­lent punt return and a rough­ing penalty.

Then Siemian led an 11-play drive that should have given the Bron­cos a lead. But Ben­nie Fowler dropped Siemian’s pass at the goal line and the Bron­cos set­tled for a Bran­don McManus field goal. Den­ver’s fi­nal drive ended when tight end A.J. Derby fum­bled with 1:04 left.

“They couldn’t re­ally stop us,” Thomas said. He fin­ished with 10 catches for 126 yards. San­ders caught a game-high 11 passes for 100 yards. Through 11 games as the Bron­cos quar­ter­back, Siemian is av­er­ag­ing 248.2 yards pass­ing per game.

“He’s a tough, re­silient player,” Forsett said of Siemian. “He played his heart out.”

“He did ev­ery­thing he could pos­si­bly do. We just didn’t do enough.”

Gary Ku­biak, Bron­cos coach, on quar­ter­back Trevor Siemian’s play Sun­day against the Ti­tans

Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Bron­cos quar­ter­back Trevor Siemian is forced out of the pocket dur­ing the fourth quar­ter against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans on Sun­day. Siemian com­pleted 35-of-51 passes for 334 yards and a touch­down.

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