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Broncos losing the mental toughness game they were re-designed to dominate

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But don't lose faith, Broncos Country. Not now. It was a bad game, a tough loss, and a sobering reality of where this team stands going into the second half of the season. But this is not the time to abandon ship. In fact, just the opposite.

Dilip Vishwanat

U-G-L-Y.

Ugly. Ugly.

Fans say that was ugly.

And terrible.

And poorly executed.

And insanely coached..

And...

And it's time to right this ship or throw something overboard (note: I said something, not someone).

We were a little disappointed with not winning bigger against the Colts, not dominating the Chiefs, and not going up big on the Jets.

We were encouraged with the loss to Seattle because we didn't fold, we fought. And we almost fought ourselves into a win.

We were all mad about losing to the Patriots, but we excused it a little because it was in New England and it was, after all, the Patriots.

With the Raiders, we were frustrated at the slow start but it was quickly forgiven when we finished the game with a rout on an 0-8 (at the time) team.

This streak needs to stop. Not the two-game losing streak (though, that can stop anytime too). No, the streak of poor execution, poor decision-making and poor play-calling. And it has to stop now.

But this streak needs to stop.

Not the losing streak, mind you (though that can stop anytime too).

Two losses - both on the road - would be forgivable in normal circumstances.

But these are not normal circumstances.

No, it's this streak of poor execution, poor decision-making and poor play-calling that has to stop.

And it has to stop now.

This is a team that was redesigned in the offseason to be tougher, to be more balanced, to be flawless on both sides of the ball. A team redesigned to be the exact opposite of what it has been so far this year.

Instead of intimidating defenses with our Hall-of-Fame-to-be QB and uber receiving weapons, defenders know we can't figure out our O-line or run block, and they're scheming for it. Our run game Sunday was 28 yards - 29 from C.J. Anderson and -1 from Peyton Manning. The Rams had two sacks and 12 passes defensed. Twelve! Broncos had zero.

Instead of a mean and nasty defense, we have edge rushers getting beat by mobile quarterbacks all over the field.

Instead of pick-6s, we are on the wrong end of a lot of third-and-long conversions.

Instead of having a sure-thing kicking game, we have a 4th and go-for-it-because-we-can't-get-three game. And it is not working.

It's a little comforting to know Peyton Manning is owning this. Taking responsibility means there's a good chance something will get done to turn it around.

"I thought we didn't execute very well and just think I didn't play very well, so usually you can kind of wrap it up into that," Manning said about what he attributes to the lack of offensive production. "I thought our defense did a good job holding them to some field goals, and we were within two scores the entire game at the end, so no excuses. I have to play better and got to score more points than seven."

It's a little less comforting knowing that Coach John Fox's only ownership of the loss is "that is a good football team," he said of the Rams. "This is the NFL, and they played better than we did. Give them some credit. They outplayed us tonight."

Grrrrrrrr...

The point is, Fox (and Adam Gase, and John Elway, and anyone else with some coaching/team responsibility here) - that there is no reason the Rams should have played better than the Broncos.

We're supposed to have the offensive and defensive masterminds.

We're supposed to have the talent.

We're supposed to have the work ethic and the mindset and the preparation.

Aren't we?

What we apparently do not have is execution - but why not? (I swear I've mentioned this problem before...who's not paying attention in the back of the room?)

I'll tell you why - the Broncos are not mentally up for the challenge yet. They are not prepared - or preparing -  well for the teams they play; not prepared well for adversity in the game; not prepared well to manage their obvious weaknesses.

And other teams - teams with obviously less talent - are.

This is on both the coaches and the players.

Remember the 90% mental, 10% physical breakdown of athletic execution (you know the one every single coach in every single sport has mentioned to his/her athletes at some point and the one a ratio-challenged Yogi Berra called half the game)?

Normally, I'd take issue with the melodramatic nature of those odds, but yesterday's game proved its truth.

The Broncos' mental game is not where it should be.

"Like I said, I give the Rams a lot of credit for holding us to seven points, but certainly we have to take responsibility for not doing our job on offense and it starts with me," Manning said.

Whether it is playing on the road, not preparing well enough in the film room, poor play calling, bad play by individuals, or not having a good hotel bed...any - and all - are toxic for a team supposedly planning on a return trip to the Super Bowl.

Despite references to armageddon by fans on Twitter, Broncos players are taking the no-panic approach to the remaining games.

"At the end of the day, we lost the game that we should have won," said DeMarcus Ware, who had six solo tackles plus a sack on Shaun Hill for a loss. "We're not down about anything. We still have a long season to go. We know what we need to do, and we have to play better on the road, and we have to get those road wins."

Wes Welker, who caught just four passes for 28 yards, also pointed out the "long season" rationale.

"I'm not concerned. It's a long season. We've just got to continue to get better," Welker said. "We need guys to step up, including myself, and go out there and make plays for us."

Cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. who was targeted zero times in the game, is confident the Broncos will be able to come up with those big plays.

"We'll respond great.  It was a tough loss today, but we didn't play the type of football that we wanted to come here and play on the road," he said.  "The [Rams] outplayed us. But this team has a lot of heart and we know what it takes to win, but we just didn't come up with a win today."

Have I mentioned that that is one of my least favorite of all the sports clichés - we just didn't come up with the win - as if it's a lottery?

Au contraire, mon Broncos.

Weather, refs, crowd noise. Those can't be controlled.

Throwing to the right receiver, catching the pass, picking up a block, running the ball, tackling the ball carrier, batting down a pass, overcoming a bad play...those are very much in your control.

To Harris' credit, he did offer at least one concrete reason for the loss.

"We're losing the turnover battle every time and that's something we have to fix," Harris said, adding that the Rams did a great job of protecting the ball and moving down the field.  "We have to get more turnovers and get Peyton the ball a little more."

Manning also highlighted his inability to get the team close enough to the end zone to open up the playbook.

"We had a good red zone plan, and I don't think we ever got to call any red zone plays. I'm not sure we were ever in there today," Manning said, even defending his offensive line by saying "the guys up front fought like crazy against a good rush."

Still the question is not where the offense broke down or the defense didn't get big plays. The question is why isn't the mental toughness there? Despite the rhetoric from the locker room, this season could slip away quickly if Broncos don't regroup fast.

Still, the question is not as much where the offense broke down or how the defense didn't get the big plays.

The question is why isn't the mental toughness there to overcome whatever it is that is holding this team back?

Despite the rhetoric from the locker room, this season could slip away quickly if the Broncos don't regroup fast.

"We've just got to tighten the screws up as a team. We didn't play well on either side of the ball. ... in a game like this on the road you've got to find a way to spark the team. We could've created turnovers to change the momentum of the game and we didn't," said Terrance Knighton. "Our offense couldn't get a rhythm going, so it didn't look like we played too well. We didn't play well enough to win on either side of the ball."

Sure the Broncos are still tied for No. 1 in the AFC West. And sure they're still looking (pretty) good for making the playoffs.

But the Patriots just smacked the Colts in Indy. The Chiefs have beaten the Patriots, Chargers and now the Seahawks.

The Broncos need to tighten those screws fast, or it's going to be time to cue the Jim Mora tape:

In spite of the bleakness, though, Broncos fans, it is not time for us to jump ship. Just the opposite.

Even in yesterday's horror show, there were bright spots - Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders each notched 100+-yard games and Anderson pulled in 86 yards receiving.

Von Miller tallied his 10th sack on the season, third on the list for most seasons in Broncos history with 10 sacks or more. He's got three seasons, behind Paul Smith with four and Simon Fletcher with five.

So batten down the hatches and grit your teeth. There's a storm coming, and it's going to take all of Broncos Country to fight off the naysayers and help pull this team back on board.

With three losses, another host of injuries to starters, and a tough schedule ahead, this team needs its fans like never before.

And we can let the Captain decide who walks the plank.