The Denver Broncos need to learn how to close games out.
At halftime, Brock Osweiler had three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, the makings of a near-perfect 155.8 passer rating. Denver's offense went 8-for-8 on third down conversions, and the Broncos were up big 27-13. But that wouldn't last. Denver's offense was completely stifled in the second half, and Osweiler's interception with 4:20 left in the 4th quarter served as the dagger as the Steelers went on to beat the Broncos 34-27.
The Broncos blew a 27-10 2nd quarter lead in the loss.
Denver's defense started the game on fire, forcing Ben Roethlisberger and company to punt after one first down on a third down conversion. But they were quickly put in a hole - Ronnie Hillman fumbled deep in Denver territory, and the Steelers recovered. Two plays later Pittsburgh had a 7-0 lead.
But Brock Osweiler and the Broncos offense had an answer.
Brock Osweiler stepped into throws, had a very efficient 12-play, 85-yard drive in 5:35, capped with Demaryius Thomas 18-yard TD. Tied at 7— Lorenzo Reyes (@LorenzoGReyes) December 20, 2015
That just got the party started. On Denver's next play, Osweiler found Emmanuel Sanders wide open for a 61-yard score.
Six for six on third downs - all Brock Osweiler (five passes, one touchdown run). A perfect passer rating for Osweiler midway through the 2nd quarter.
Big Ben and his receiving group were aided by a huge pass interference call against Aqib Talib on 3rd and 20 (it was a fair call, and Talib may have saved a touchdown), but ultimately had to settle for a field goal. Shaquil Barrett tipped the field goal, which just barely boinked between the uprights, for the Steelers to cut Denver's lead to 20-10. Then things got chippy again.
Tempers are flaring between the Broncos and Steelers. pic.twitter.com/kEbw7mhQzd— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) December 20, 2015
The Broncos weren't done scoring though - this time Brockweiler would take it into the end zone on his legs. An 80-yard drive that included two more third down conversions was capped off by an eight-yard Osweiler run, and the Broncos took a 27-10 lead after Brandon McManus missed the extra point.
The Steelers hurried their way to a field goal before the buzzer, and it was 27-13 Broncos at halftime.
This is where things fell apart. The Broncos opened up the second half flat - after converting eight for eight third downs in the first half, they started out the third quarter 0 for 3. Compounding matters was the drive Ben Roethlisberger was able to put together - Antonio Brown beat Chris Harris Jr. in the corner of the end zone, and the Steelers further cut Denver's lead to 27-20. It was the first touchdown Harris had given up since November 2013.
It wouldn't be the last of the night.
Denver's offensive struggles continued, and we couldn't help but wonder who was (not) making halftime adjustments for the Broncos.
These #Broncos' consistent offensive halftime meltdown is flabbergasting.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) December 21, 2015
Roethlisberger and Brown took advantage, with Brown beating Harris again for a touchdown, giving the Steelers their first lead since going up 7-0 early. All hope seemed lost.
What a play by Marshall!! A new hope!— Zach Sheely (@ZSheely) December 21, 2015
Would the offense finally erase 28 minutes of ineptitude, return to its dominant form in the clutch, and keep that hope alive?
Osweiler threw incomplete on 1st and 10, 2nd and 10, 3rd and 10 and finally 4th and 10, and the Broncos would go on to lose.
For Denver, it was another hugely disappointing loss that all came to effect in the 2nd half. After leading 12-0 against the Raiders in Week 14, they lost 15-12; after leading 27-13 against the Steelers, they lost 34-27.
Denver still hasn't scored a second-half point this month. Outscored 33-0 in the second half in December.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 21, 2015
The frustrations will continue as the Broncos now need to likely win both of their remaining games in order to clinch the AFC West (let alone a playoff spot).