In any struggle we face, we may find two critical components: the immediate, concrete obstacles that must be surmounted, and the spaces in between them. The perils of our struggle, and the distance from our goals.
The perils themselves may be thousandfold. Their enumeration is their strength, they frighten us by bristling and showing their many fangs. In week one, the Broncos faced and fell to these perils. A failure to pressure the passer introduced an early deficit. A failure to contain on special teams eliminated any advantage. A failure to churn out yards on the ground ehanced vulnerability. A failure to stop the run endangered the Broncos hopes of a comeback.
But in week two, many of these same perils were overcome.
The distance from their goals, on the other hand, saw only slight improvement from week one to week two. Whereas the concrete obstacles intimidate by virtue of their unassailable rigidity and numbers, the distance works against us with a zero, an insurmountable vapidness with all the presence of a void. We scan the horizon and see nothing. The space seems vast, with no firm ground upon which a spirit may find footing.
On one side, Legion. On the other, the Abyss.
In the end, it is usually the distance that gets us. Because as enemies go, at least the obstacles can be met in battle.
It is the battle that saved the Broncos against the Seahawks. To be sure, the Broncos improved their play in may areas, most notably in the category of turnovers, going from -2 to +3 overall in one afternoon. That one of the turnovers was produced by a maligned special teams unit, and moreso that a young player on notice, Cassius Vaughn, was the player on top of it, is of particular significance. From one obstacle to the next there is chance for improvement. Incidentally, this is how you turn the void to your advantage, by putting the time to good use.
Converting 3rd downs was another critical weapon that Denver succeeded in turning upon the 'hawks. It led to four drives, each with double digit plays and over 80 yards.
But perhaps the most significant advantage that the Broncos gained came from the Seahawks themselves, and their many mistakes. Twice Matt Hasselbeck underestimated the Broncos secondary, and twice he paid the price with a turnover. On the critical special teams turnover, Seattle doomed themselves by muffing the punt. And when the score was in blowout-territory late in the third quarter, 24-7, Denver had racked up only one penalty to Seattle's seven.
When the opponent was opportunistic, capitalizing on Denver's mistakes, the Broncos showed they could hang with them in a close game. When Denver was the one who was opportunistic, they showed they can pull away and leave opponents in the dust.
Facing the obstacles and geting these results, enduring the peril and coming out scathed, but successful, on the other side, is the foundation of hope.
"Don't get your hopes up."
Some, no doubt, believe this mantra. The Broncos aren't guaranteed to come out ahead in any particular struggle, and two yards per carry against the Seahawks, long returns allowed to the 'hawks special teams units, and little tangible pressure on the quarterback, allowing 3rd down conversions, all speak loudly to this. These obstacles may indeed prove to be more insurmountable than the others.
But it is the distance that is really getting to them. They see the Broncos 3rd place in the AFC West. They see 13th overall in the AFC, where only six teams will be drawn for postseason play. On the edges of their vision they see an immediate gauntlet on the schedule, consisting of Indianapolis, Tennessee, Baltimore and the Jets. This is the Abyss. So far to go and so very few are the ways to get there. Hope is a tenuous tightrope, and greater teams have fallen further than this.
But that is all we get. The only reward from a success is a strand of hope for the next struggle, and the next. If there is a reason why people tremble before the distance that must be travelled, it is because the promiscuity of their imagination demands that it be travelled all at once. Then it is indeed insurmountable. Kenny McKinley's tragic death barely a day after his teammates secured the victory seems like a somber symbol of this manifestation, a humbling moment where we look at the night around us and ask if Day is anything more than a brief period of proximity to a star.
At this point the distance seems far, and the math seems undeniably easy. 1-1 extrapolates to 8-8.
"But don't get your hopes up."
I don't know. Maybe it is time to take a few threadbare strands of hope and get on board the rollercoaster. Go all in. I'll admit, this old wooden thing with McDaniels at the controls isn't much to look at. Already I can sense the trepidation of many. "That thing is dangerous."
I don't think so.
We might be safer here than we are anywhere else in the world.