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Horse Tracks: Are the Denver Broncos still a championship contender?

There is no question the Denver Broncos have the talent, but can that talent overcome the obvious flaws in how this team is coached during the game and maybe even during the week of preparation? I am hesitant to say yes, but the talent is just too good not to believe this team is still a true contender in 2014.
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In what can only be called the worst defeat of the Denver Broncos since the Super Bowl, the 22-7 road loss to the St. Louis Rams certainly has Broncos Country scratching their collective heads as both the fans and the team look to move forward from that disaster.

I say move forward, because it is plainly evident to me that the Broncos coaching staff isn't going to learn from their mistakes. I've always liked John Fox and have been a defender of his in the past, but at some point I'd like to see someone other than the quarterback take responsibility for poor performances. Coaching matters in the NFL and its about time the Broncos coaches take responsibility for these deficiencies.

The first question was asking what the difference was in today's game. Was it play calling? Was it clock management? Was it poor situational coaching? Naw....

"They practice to get paid too and that is a good football team. The last time they were here they beat the defending world champions, Seattle. They also went out to San Francisco and beat them," Fox said as he deflected any blame from his feet yet again, "This is the NFL and they played better than we did. Minus two as I mentioned before is a reason you can write. Our effectiveness on third down is a reason that you can write. I thought those were more factors than where we kicked or didn’t kick."

Ah yes, the old "players didn't execute" excuses. Blame Peyton Manning for throwing interceptions, but not the coaches for wrecking the offensive line cohesion that is charged with giving him a pocket to throw from. Blame the offense for not converting on third downs. But never, ever, blame the coaching decisions when it comes to going for it on fourth down or giving your kicker a chance to kick every now and then.

But wait, there's more! So what about that offensive line we all know is now a disaster? Is it a concern? Nope!

"In a lot of games when you get one dimensional it is not a fun day at the office when you play up front," deflected Fox, "But give them a little more credit than other concerns."

Oh yeah, let's blame all the throwing Peyton Manning did. Let's not wonder if maybe benching Chris Clark was a mistake and getting him back into the lineup. As bad as some felt he was, those issues are nothing close to the catastrophe the Broncos now have all along the offensive line.

It feels like I am now ranting at John Fox, but I cannot help avoid the frustration I feel towards him and his staff with the head-scratching calls they make in-game. None was a bigger head-scratcher than the fiasco that ended the first half against the St. Louis Rams. Fox decided not to use a timeout until it was fourth down with a mere 20 seconds left in the half. Why? Does he answer that? Nope!

"We contemplated it from both sides. We would get the ball at the start of the third quarter," Fox explained, "I have been on both sides of that, but it worked out fine for what we were trying to get accomplished. I have been on both sides, if you get too cute the other team can go down and score."

For once, I agree with Fox here. Calling a needless timeout to field a needless punt for a needless kneel down to end the half is not cute. It's stupid. Yes, that entire sequence was stupid and only compounded the frustration of the game from the fans perspective and at some point the buck needs to stop somewhere other than players "lack of execution".

Peyton Manning, on the other hand, did not agree at all with Fox not wanting to "get cute". Multiple reports have him visibly pissed off over how the clock was managed to close out the first half.

Is there even an concern from the coaching staff about this team getting blown out two of the last three games?

"It is a loss, how you react to it will be important," Fox said, "I think that we have character in that room that we will respond fine. I can’t predict the future, but I still like our chances as a football team. This is obviously a set back."

Thank you! Finally, an admission of sorts. Yes, this game was a set back. Now what are you going to do about it, John Fox?

Interesting Tidbits

If I seemed overly angry when criticizing Fox, then I was probably letting my emotions get the better of me. Frustration can be a very difficult thing to control at times. That said, there were definitely some positives from Sunday's game and I wanted to go over some of the good ones here after such a "negative" start to this day's Horse Tracks.

First up, Von Miller notched his tenth sack of the season which puts him a tie for third place in Denver Broncos history for most 10+ sack seasons with three. Simon Fletcher has the record with five seasons and Paul Smith has four season with ten or more sacks in a season. It won't be very long at all before Von owns this one.

Next up, Demaryius Thomas extends his consecutive 100 yard game streak to seven games. That puts him in a four-way tie for second place in NFL history with Michael Irvin, Bill Groman and Charley Hennigan. One more would put him in a tie for first place all-time with Calvin Johnson. Yes. That is elite company right there. Thomas now has 72 catches for 1105 yards on the year with six games to go in the regular season. Not bad, Demaryius.

And now probably the most interesting player-related tidbit to me involves Brandon Marshall. In the last 8 days, Marshall has notched an incredible 28 tackles in two games. That's just disgusting. Danny Trevathan better start studying the middle linebacker positions, because I think that might be the only way he gets back onto the field this season.

Broncos Video

Week 11: Denver Broncos vs. St. Louis Rams highlights |
Denver Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning could never get the offense going, only managing one touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. Rams beat the Broncos 22-7.

Fox: 'That's a good football team' |
Head Coach John Fox meets the media after losing to the St. Louis Rams 22-7.

Manning on 22-7 loss to St. Louis |
Peyton Manning's press conference following the loss in St. Louis.

Manning: 'I give them a lot of credit' |
Manning press conference continued.

Turnovers, third downs hurt Broncos offense |
The Broncos lost the turnover battle on Sunday and were just 4 of 12 on third down against the Rams.

Double digit loss leads to 7-3 |
The Broncos can't overcome a turnovers and third down woes and lose to the Rams 22-7.

Broncos credit Rams pass rush |
The Broncos gave credit to the Rams pass rush Sunday, as Peyton Manning was sacked twice in the loss.

Video: Broncos vs Rams: Post-Game Rant -
The Denver Broncos were physically out matched by a young tough St. Louis defense. In addition to poor play, the Broncos suffered 3 key offensive injures when Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Montee Ball were all sidelined in the first half.

Horse Tracks

Jonas Gray's four touchdowns leads Patriots over Colts | The MMQB
On Sunday morning, none of the eight divisions were tied at the top. On Sunday evening, four were. Three hours after the Browns were alone in first place in the AFC North, they were tied for last in the AFC North.

3 things we learned in St. Louis' 22-7 upset -
The Rams manhandled the Broncos for four quarters, and it was enough to pull off the unthinkable, a 22-7 upset of the defending AFC champs.

Julius Thomas of Denver Broncos leaves game with ankle injury - ESPN
The Denver Broncos' trip to this city has been a painful one. Tight end Julius Thomas, running back Montee Ball and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders all suffered injuries in a 22-7 loss to the Rams.

Peyton's Take: 'No excuses' |
The Broncos' offense dealt with several key injuries in the loss to the Rams, but Peyton Manning said a banged-up roster wasn’t responsible a seven-point output on Sunday.

Rams 22, Broncos 7: Three Keys, Unlocked |
Injuries mounted for the Broncos, but they refused to use them as an excuse for a humbling defeat in St. Louis.

St. Louis Rams Abuse The Denver Broncos 22-7 -
The Broncos took a step backward today, as they failed to reach double digit scoring totals for the first time in the Peyton Manning era. Where did they go wrong?

Hurt, frustrated Denver Broncos fall to Rams 7-22 -
The Denver Broncos suffered a frustrating defeat in St. Louis and lost several players to injury in the process.

NFL Recap - Denver Broncos at St. Louis Rams -
Shaun Hill got his job back, finally. Then he got the best of Peyton Manning. After eight weeks on the bench, the journeyman was ready.

Rams pull off big upset, upend Broncos | ProFootballTalk
In one of the biggest upsets of this NFL season, the Broncos are heading home from St. Louis licking their wounds, having suffered an ugly loss and having lost some key players in the process.

Emmanuel Sanders felt "OK" after game | ProFootballTalk
The Broncos took it on the chin against the Rams on Sunday and the fallout from the loss may reach beyond the missed chance to keep some separation from the Chiefs in the AFC West.

DEA conducts surprise inspections of 49ers, Buccaneers over painkiller use -
The San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were among multiple NFL teams subjected to surprise inspections by the Drug Enforcement Administration on Sunday in regards to how they prescribe and distribute painkillers following road games, according to a report from ESPN.

Bears could trade Jay Cutler after the season -
The Chicago Bears could save a lot of money by sending away Jay Cutler and there could be a trade market for the veteran passer, too.

Washington fans chant 'we want Colt' as RG3 struggles -
In a home loss to Tampa Bay, Washington fans chanted for backup quarterback Colt McCoy to replace RG3. It's going to be a long November in Washington.

3 things we learned from Kansas City's statement 24-20 win -
Though rarely discussed as one of the NFL's best teams, the Kansas City Chiefs showcased their strong defense and versatile running game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.