O≠ense stumbles to bad place Bron­cos are some­times dis­cov­er­ing that their most for­mi­da­ble foe is the one in the mir­ror

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

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

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