O≠ense stumbles to bad place Broncos are sometimes discovering that their most formidable foe is the one in the mirror
When the Broncos’ season is later distilled to its most telling moments, a dropback pass attempt in the fourth quarter Sunday against New England will be near the top of the lowlights.
Denver had gained just 24 yards on four possessions in the second half when quarterback Trevor Siemian ducked under center. It was third-and-1. The Broncos needed 1 yard to finally earn their first first down in the second half. One scant yard. Three feet is all that separated them from standing in place and finally moving forward.
Quarterbacks often fall for 1 yard. The Broncos called a pass. And Siemian was sacked for a 14-yard loss, with the game still not out of reach.
The Broncos’ offense hit a low point in a season of them. In a dispiriting 16-3 home loss that left fans and players exasperated, the defending Super Bowl champions bumbled and stammered their way to 19 yards on five drives to begin a decisive second half.
“Frustrating. No doubt,” Siemian said.
Including a 13-10 loss to Tennessee last week, the Broncos have 13 points and 76 yards rushing in their past two games.
The last time the Broncos scored as few as 13 points total in consecutive games came in 1992 — when they went 8-8 under coach Dan Reeves and missed the playoffs. That stretch of impotence was authored in part by quarterback Tommy Maddox, who replaced the injured John Elway for four games.
“I don’t know,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said when asked the reason for the offensive derailing. “I guess we’re beating ourselves. A couple penalties, a couple drops. That’s the main thing. We get behind early in the game, then you try to change up the game plan.”
Early against the Patriots, everything seemed on track. On Denver’s first play from scrimmage, newly signed veteran running back Justin Forsett took a handoff and went by left tackle Russell Okung for a 13-yard gain. The Broncos last week gained 18 yards rushing. Total.
And Siemian was slinging the ball. A screen pass to Forsett gained 9 yards. A center-cut pass to tight end Virgil Green gained 9 more. A deep route toss to Thomas gained 23 yards. It led to Brandon McManus kicking a 33-yard field goal on their second drive and a 3-3 score after the first quarter.
Siemian threw for 112 yards in the first quarter, while Tom Brady had no passing yards.
But on the Broncos’ first play of the second quarter, everything fell apart. Just 14 yards from the end zone, Siemian’s pass to Emmanuel Sanders near the left sideline was intercepted by New England cornerback Logan Ryan. He ran it back 46 yards to set up the Patriots’ only touchdown, a 1yard scoring run by LeGarrette Blount.
“I can’t make that mistake,” Siemian said, “moving the ball really well and don’t get any points to show for it and just give the ball back to them. Not a lot of margin for error.”
The Broncos needed a victory to stay in front of the Miami Dolphins (9-5) for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. Instead, Denver (8-6) dropped to ninth behind the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) and Titans (8-6). And the plight of their offense continues.
“Sad to say,” Thomas said, “we went out and competed as a group, but I don’t think the whole squad was ready to go.”
Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders gets tackled by New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler during the fourth quarter Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Sanders finished with three receptions for 48 yards. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post