Look, a lot can be made about the poor officiating and yeah, it really, really sucked. But bottom line, the Broncos had MANY MANY opportunities to put this game away and they failed. This one is solely on us folks, so don't go around blaming the refs or don't go around pointing the finger at anyone else but ourselves.
This should never have happened period. You have to be able to win the ball game when scoring 35 points and an elite defense. Trindon Holliday, Ronnie Hillman, and perhaps Chris Harris are about the only players that showed up and played well, everyone else for lack of a better term completely failed. Since I am generous in heaping praise, I'm also going to be brutally honest in defeat---so take it for what it's worth. I'm going to go through the list of what happened to sway the outcome in Baltimore's favor:
- Manning's 3 turnovers led to 17 Baltimore points. He had a fantastic year but this game was very sub par. I get that there was interference on the pick 6, I get that only Tom Brady benefits from the tuck rule, but with the game on the line, Manning rolled out to his right, threw back against his body in very Favre-esque fashion and gave the ball to the Ravens in our territory. Let's just call it like it is right now, he choked on that moment. 9-11 now, yes QB's get too much credit/blame for things but I'm a bottom line type of guy and he didn't get it done.
- Rahim Moore is the biggest goat of the game. It never should have gotten to overtime. You have one responsibility and that's to not let anyone over the top. And that's what you do. All the improvement you made over the course of the season went down the drain with one HUGE mistake. That mistake is singlehandedly the dumbest play I have ever seen a player make in Bronco history.
- Matt Prater isn't worth his money. I stuck up for him when the Broncos resigned, I defended him when he had a bad stretch of games in the season. Again on a big stage---in something you're known for, your foot hits the ground on a 50-yard attempt before it hits the ball. Bring someone in to compete with him and take back half his money if possible.
- Chris Kuper should have been pulled. He was singlehandedly responsible for many of the penalties that set Broncos drives back and for much of the inside pressure from Kruger. Kruger is an end, after they found success against Kuper he kicked inside and brutalized him all game.
- Knowshon had a great run to end the season but proved injury prone yet again.
- I simply don't understand much of the playcalling especially at the end. I'm not going to eat John Fox's lunch for taking a knee at the end of the 4th. Manning, I've said it all season, you do not check into a run on 3rd and 4 and more. You just don't, I don't care what box count you see, none of our runners average 5 yards per carry. No calls deep down the field was really surprising and so was the fact that DT was pretty much shut out.
Now, most of the rest of this is reserved for the defense.
35 points and we lose the game, two kick returns for TD's and we lose the game, three offensive TD's and we lose the game. No pass rush until the very end, horrible secondary play. If Moore is the goat of the game, Champ is his understudy. He may still be a great corner but he didn't have the speed to match up with Torrey Smith. This unit above all else completely let their team down. Flacco is not elite and he torched our secondary. Nothing from the edge, or in the middle, too many penalties.
That's about all I have for now except this:
This will be a long off season for the Broncos. This game was very reminiscent of '96 when a clearly inferior team came into our house and won. The Ravens made key plays at the right time, but bottom line, the Broncos did it to themselves. They will have all offseason to ponder what might have been.
I know some out there will say, "hey it's year 1 no one expected us to go that far" and I agree, however, you don't waste these opportunities because you never know when you might have them again. Now was the time, and now the time is next year "if".
There will be plenty of time to think and reminisce on a great Broncos season, but until the sting of failure wears off, don't expect much praise from Bronco Mike, I'm a bottom line type of guy;)
Cheers MHR, I've had a great time writing stuff this year and I look forward to bringing you guys great stuff this offseason. Perhaps the lousiest thing about this loss? The stupid Mock Draft season begins.