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Broncos respond to wake-up call by hitting the snooze button

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Denver looked like a clueless team going through the motions, hellbent on giving Gary Kubiak another migraine.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Football historians know the line “win one for the Gipper.”

Even if you don’t watch football, it’s a safe bet you’ve heard that famous quote. To give a little more background, this halftime speech came from Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne in 1928 against Army. According to the Notre Dame archives, Rockne tried to salvage the worst season of his tenure by telling his players an inspirational story about the tragic death of the greatest player in Notre Dame history, George Gipp.

From the archives: “Although historians believe that it is doubtful that Rockne's version of Gipp's last words was true, Notre Dame did win the game against Army.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Good thing Rockne didn’t give his speech to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. He would have left disappointed.

After the 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Broncos got their first wake-up call. After the 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers, it’s clear Denver hit the snooze button after the loss on Sunday and has yet to wake up. The team was flat, played with no emotion and didn’t seem to care. To go back in time, it looked eerily similar to the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts in 2015 that led to where the team is now.

Many would have you believe Denver dropped the ball on Thursday because Kubiak wasn’t on the sidelines. But in reality, players should have felt a sense of pride to play even better for their coach, who had to stay at home after a scare that sent him to the hospital. They should have wanted to win that game for him. That doesn’t mean his absence wasn’t felt, but come on. These are professionals, not high school players.

Instead, Denver looked like a clueless team going through the motions, hellbent on giving their coach another migraine.

Since the game ended, fingers have been pointed at who is responsible. That won’t bring solutions or make the situation better. The key in all of this is it’s still one game. Denver is 4-2. While not ideal to enter this mini bye on the heels of two straight losses, the Broncos still get time to clear their minds and get away from football.

How Denver responds against the Houston Texans will have a huge influence on how the next few games unfold. Do the Broncos refocus and get more determined? Granted, there’s only so much teams can do in today’s NFL. What would serve this team well, especially the offensive line, is to put the pads on and get to work.

Since that can’t happen, the coaches are limited in what they can do. Perhaps it will help to have Kubiak back at the facility on Monday, but the players didn’t seem to care he was gone. They may say they do, but actions speak louder than words.

The good news is it’s the middle of October. The Broncos still have 10 games left on the schedule and five in the division. As is the case with the NFL, anything can and does happen in this league. There is still a lot of time left.

To throw another cliche on the fire, “It’s not how you play in October, but in January and February.”

Perhaps getting embarrassed on national TV serves as that wake-up call. A heaping portion of humble pie hits the spot in the moments like these.

Hopefully it cures migraines, too.