Final Game Stats
41-7. It is pretty hard to say it. Even harder to spell it out - Forty One to Seven - yikes. I am going to try not to pile on the negativity, that seems to be handled over in the Fan Posts. I can't say I blame anyone, it was hard to watch. In the end, it is one game, one loss. We can talk about the trends, like the downward spiral of the offense, or the inability of the defense to stop the run, those are all valid points, but this game only counts as one loss and the BYE week allows a beat up Broncos team to hopefully regroup and get healthy.
The stats are above, so I don't need to rehash them for you. I will mention that the Broncos are averaging over 3 turnovers a game the past 4 weeks and that is a certain recipe to fail. It is even worse in the 3 losses the Broncos have earned over the same period - 12 turnovers(4 per game). In short, the Broncos are literally giving games away. Tonight was no different. Two drives into New England territory, two fumbles, two field goals by the Pats. At the least, it was a 12 point swing. At the least. At that moment, everything changes, especially for a team that is thin at running back to begin with.
Look at just the first drive. The Broncos were inside the Patriots 35 yardline, and had the ball for over 6 minutes. The crowd was quiet, the Broncos were shoving it down the Patriots throat, and that was obviously the game plan. The fumble kills all of that. Similarly, the 2nd drive moves into Patriots territory. Another Andre Hall fumble and now things are really in trouble. In the end, the Broncos had the ball for over 8 minutes during those two possessions and had 0 points to show. Instead of frustrating and wearing down the Pats defense, the turnovers invigorate them. The route was on.
It is easy to pile on the defense. Hell, every MSM expert who watches 45 seconds of the game will tell you it is all about the Broncos defense. They are definitely not without blame, that would be a ridiculous argument, but this team was built around the offense. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, et al. The Broncos had trouble on defense last season and worried so much about it that they drafted offensive players with their first 3 picks in the draft. Mike Shanahan and Company made a conscious decision that they would try to win with offense this season. For 3 games, it looked like the right philosophy. What happened, however, was the great equalizer. Injuries.
Starting out after Week 1, when WR Darrell Jackson was injured, the Broncos have never really had their full compliment of offensive weapons. Go back a but further, and it was becoming obvious that Ryan Torain was going to be a big factor in the offense. His injury definitely affected what the Broncos wanted to do. The laundry list continues, first with Eddie Royal, then with Selvin Young, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley. Should we be surprised about that, however? All three have injury histories. At this point it is almost a certainty that all 3 will miss time each season, the only problem is they are all gone at the same time. Cutler is bringing a knife to a gun fight.
That leads us to Jay Cutler. Turnovers aside, his finger injury on the very first play of the game certainly had an impact. It was obvious that the finger was bothering him, and we all know the Index Finger on a quarterback's throwing hand is the most important of all the digits. I sincerely hope the injury isn't serious, and Cutler has once again shown his toughness by staying in the game.
That said, I think it is time for Jay to start focusing on football again. Enough with PTI, Best Damn..., and other National Media interviews. Enough with interviews in the Sporting News, enough talking about Elway. Just ENOUGH. When he prepared for football games, without the outside distractions, Cutler was awesome. Each week, he has struggled more and more as demands on his time have grown. I know it isn't my place to tell Jay Cutler what he should and shouldn't do, but the proof is in the results.
That leads me to why I think last night's embarrassing loss could actually work out to be a positive thing. When the Broncos played with a chip on their shoulder, when no one in the country thought they were any good, they were very dangerous. Then the team started 3-0, and Jay Cutler was playing lights out, and everyone started to take notice. The national media wanted interviews. TV shows were doing feature stories about Jay Cutler, or Champ Bailey. The focus stopped being about football. This is a young football team, still devoid of true locker room leadership. Now that the team has bottomed out, the national pundits will likely start piling on the Broncos again. Will start writing about how the Broncos are "paper tigers" and such. Let them. I want to create an "Us against the world" mentality. I like how it looked in September.
Last night was one of the ugliest games I have ever seen the Broncos play. Much like the Lions game last season. It was embarrassing, the offense struggled, the defense got shredded. Injuries are piling up. Still, when the team takes the field in two weeks, with all the negativity that is sure to be spouted by message boards and in the mainstream, the team will still run onto the field to play the Miami Dolphins, at 4-3, as the FIRST PLACE DENVER BRONCOS, I have a feeling we all would have signed up for that back in August. In case you don't believe me, here are the standings --
AFC West Standings
Don't forget how you feel right now, but don't dwell on it either. We haven't heard the last of the Denver Broncos in 2008.