The Denver Broncos and the Year of Adversity

It's impossible to console a fan after a loss like that one. There are no words that anyone can say to explain away the pain of the loss to the Cardinals. It was a rough loss. Nothing went well for the Broncos. It was all bad, except for the punter. Britton Colquitt was exceptional, punting 5 times for 281 yards (56.2 yards average).

It's a sad day when your punter is the lone bright spot.

Anyways, a little over a month ago, I wrote this in the Rest of the West - Week 11:

The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos, 49-29.

It was a foregone conclusion at the end of the first quarter. If you tuned in a bit late, I am willing to fill you in on what you missed with just four words.

The Broncos were unstoppable.

In the first four possessions, the Broncos scored 4 touchdowns. Their fifth possession ended in a missed field goal at the end of the half.... of course, if you wanted to count the Jason Hunter fumble recovery for a touchdown as a possession, then you should mark the fumble recovery as the fifth possession and the missed field goal as the sixth. Let's not make things more complicated than we have to, though. 

The Broncos were forced to punt for the first time with 3:44 left in the third quarter. So, it took almost 3/4 of the game before the Broncos were stopped by the Kansas City defense. If you're a chiefs fan, that can't make you feel very good, especially when your offense starts the game with 2 punts and a missed field goal. By the time the Chiefs scored their first point, they were down 35-0. You can't get in that deep of a hole and expect to win the game...

Remember the good old days? Remember when we dominated time of possession and scored touchdowns instead of field goals? Remember when we refused to give up a turnover or punt the ball?

The Chiefs game I referred to, above, was on November 14th. That was 30 days ago. What happened to that team?

The answer is... lots of things happened. The players are still here. The talent level is still here. The scheme is still here. However, there has clearly been a change.

I believe that the change is mental. The Broncos are mentally spent. They appear to be in a severe mental funk. They're fed up with the situation they are in and as the losses pile up, they become decreasingly able to deal with adversity during games.

Just think about the game, yesterday. The Broncos looked pretty good early. They drove right down the field as Kyle Orton was a perfect 5 for 5 passing. After the Broncos' drive stalled and they kicked the field goal, things went downhill in a hurry. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the Broncos would not win the game. It's almost as if you could see the collective "here we go again" look in the players' eyes. It seems like that kind of thing has happened in a handful of games this year. If the first drive doesn't go right, it's like this team just forgets what they're doing and closes up shop.

You could just see the frustration on their faces. After a Kyle Orton screen pass to Knowshon Moreno went off course and fell to the turf, Moreno just looked at Orton and did a bit of a shoulder shrug, as if to say "C'mon Kyle... What are you doing?". In my opinion, that particular reaction spoke volumes. Not only was it a physical representation of the season, up until this point, but it also showed us the clout (or lack thereof) that Kyle Orton holds in the locker room. The players are either losing faith in Kyle or they're just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

But honestly, can you blame them for being so down? I can't. The amount of adversity this team has faced over the past year is enough to put a damper on anyone's psyche. 

Just think about everything that the players have faced this year:

 

  • Brandon Marshall benched and traded
  • Tony Scheffler benched and traded
  • Peyton Hillis trade
  • Mike Nolan stepping down as Defensive Coordinator
  • Injury to Ryan Clady during a basketball game in the offseason
  • Drafting the most controversial figure in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tim Tebow
  • Training camp injury to the Broncos best defensive player from 2009, Elvis Dumervil
  • Injuries to numerous players (Moreno, White, Mays, Harris, Kuper, and the list goes on and on....)
  • the Kenny McKinley suicide
  • Spygate 2 scandal
  • DJ Williams DUI
  • Perrish Cox arrested for sexual assault
  • The increasing chatter to bench Orton and play Tebow from the main stream media and fans
  • Josh McDaniels firing
  • Other (because I don't claim that this list is all-inclusive.)

 

That's a lot of adversity, am I right? I dare you to name one NFL team that has had more adversity than that in 2010.

After considering all that they've been through, it's no wonder that the Broncos have collapsed like a 10 dollar tent. Losing this many games doesn't make the fans happy and it certainly doesn't make the owner or players happy, but it surprises me that we remain surprised.

This season is what it is... a disaster.

 

So, what now?

What can heal this broken franchise? Tim and Time.

First of all, I'm jumping on board the Tebow express. I have backed Kyle Orton out of loyalty to the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, but this season is lost. We are better served figuring out what we have in our 2010 1st round draft selection before we enter the offseason. Let's get this guy on the field and (even if we don't win) see what he can do.

Secondly, we need time. Any breakup or loss or injury needs time to heal. The expression "time heals all wounds" is something that this franchise needs to abide by. A week into January won't be enough. Maybe not even a week into March or April... there's no telling. A season like this one isn't going to be forgotten like a parking lot penny. It will take a while...

There is one thing that is bound to boost our optimism, though. A solid draft in 2011 should go a long way. If you look at the Broncos who played the Chiefs in week 11, it's obvious that the talent is there. There are some strong pieces that we can build around. With a few solid picks in the NFL Draft and a couple of key free agent signings for depth, the Broncos could be back on track in no time.

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