Sometimes the football gods giveth; sometimes they taketh away.
Sunday night they ‘‘tooketh.’’
Called the bank shot... just forgot to tell Colquitt. CHIEFS WIN!! pic.twitter.com/3N9Zv2HICJ— Cairo Santos (@cairosantos19) November 28, 2016
Gary Kubiak blamed himself.
“We’re going to try to win. I’ve seen ‘B-Mac’ do that many times in practice,” Kubiak said of his choice in overtime to kick a 62-yard field goal. “It’s on me. I just gave them a chance. I thought we could do it and we didn’t get it done. Give [KC] credit.”
Von Miller blamed the defense first.
“We did everything that we possibly could to lose the game,” said the edge rusher who did everything he possibly could to win with three sacks on Alex Smith. “We did everything that we possibly could in every phase of the football game and guess what, we lost.”
Early on, many blamed the offense.
Just about everyone was blaming special teams.
Two holding penalties cost the Broncos 51 yards.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 28, 2016
1 TD allowed on a free kick.
1 penalty extends a drive.
Special-teams nightmare tonight.
Truth is there was a lot of blame to spread around, and any one play going differently could have changed the outcome in the Broncos’ favor.
But the football gods decided the Broncos were out of “one plays.”
After all, they have enjoyed more than their share of snatching wins in waning moments from the jaws of defeat. Plus, every prayer offered up from Broncos Country was countered 10-fold from every fan of the Saints, Browns, Vikings, Lions, Bears, Raiders, most definitely the Chiefs and probably any team in the last 30 years that has seen a win slip away in just seconds.
Miller’s estimation of the Broncos’ improbable wins felt accurate - even if a slight exaggeration.
“We’ve been on the other side of this 50 million times. ...Tonight is a terrible night, but we’ll be back,” said Miller, noting no player in the locker room is “packing it up” after the loss. “‘Lib’ [Aqib Talib] is going to be 10 times better. I’m going to be 10 times better. Chris [Harris Jr.] will be 10 times better. We’re just going to keep it rolling. Roll the dice and let’s see what happens.”
For all the finger pointing after the loss, no one disagreed with Kubiak’s decision to go for the 62-yard field goal in overtime and try to win before time could run out and the game would end in a 27-27 tie.
“My thing is that we’re going to try to win around here,” Kubiak said. “I made that decision, and it just didn’t work out. I have a lot of confidence in Brandon. I have a lot of confidence in our football team. That’s why I made that decision.”
With no timeouts left in overtime, Kubiak’s decision was based on whether there would be time to get the ball back.
“We didn’t have any doubt that [Brandon McManus] could get the ball there. There was no doubt about that,” the coach noted. “The thought process was on the other end. If we did punt, do we have any chance of getting the football back? That was part of the process.”
In a game with plenty of “what ifs” - from the “what if Jordan Norwood doesn’t muff two punts” to “what if the defense doesn’t get four drive-extending penalties that helps the Chiefs tie the game” or “what if Bennie Fowler doesn’t go all the way to the end zone and the Broncos run out the clock” to “what if Cairo Santos’ field goal tips the other side of the post?” - the game cannot explained by bad luck.
“We beat ourselves,” said Chris Harris Jr. about Kansas City’s final drive in regulation to tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion. “We had a number of penalties on that drive. We had blown coverages that we played perfect earlier all game. We can’t be mad at anybody except ourselves.”
The offense certainly did a lot to help win the game in the second half after a very frustrating start where it did its best to lose the game.
With three three-and-outs to show for the first quarter, then a fumble in the end zone to give the Chiefs a safety, and only a field goal in the second quarter after driving to KC’s 15-yard line, it would be an understatement of grand proportion to say the offense was struggling in the first half.
But undeterred, Trevor Siemian and the offense showed in the third quarter just what they can be made of - touchdowns.
Following a forced three-and-out by the Broncos’ defense to start the second half, Devontae Booker went to work with a couple of solid runs while Siemian connected deep to Demaryius Thomas and short to A.J. Derby. Sieimian even pulled a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 at the Chiefs’ 9-yard line to keep the potential touchdown drive alive.
Then Siemian showed that he can escape the clutches of Justin Houston and found Jordan Taylor’s inviting hands and twinkle toes in the end zone for six to put the Broncos up by one after McManus’ extra point.
“[Siemian] gets better every week, and he played phenomenal tonight for us,” Taylor said, adding that they practice the “scramble and score” play all the time. “Every day. In practice throwing seven-on-seven, the quarterback just scrambles for whatever reason and you’ve got to give him a window and try to get open for him. Obviously, Trevor did a great job staying alive and finding me in the corner.”
In spite of all the offense’s struggles, Kubiak was also proud of his quarterback.
“He played like a champ,” Kubiak said, noting the lack of protection surrounding Siemian. “He made big plays across the board. He made some tremendous throws. I wish he could have gotten out of here with a win tonight. That’s part of being a pro. You have to battle through it.”
The Chiefs would add a touchdown on its next drive after first settling for a field goal, but thanks to an illegal formation penalty on the Broncos’ special teams, KC got a fresh set of downs from Denver’s 12 and three plays later marched into the end zone.
But the Broncos responded with a couple of huge catches from Emmanuel Sanders, who had a huge night and was finally rewarded with a TD for his money hands all season.
“Trevor was delivering some great footballs, and it was good to really just connect on a couple deep balls,” Sanders said after the game in which he finished with seven catches for 162 total yards, including 99 yards between two passes on the touchdown drive. “I mean, things are looking good offensively.”
The wide receiver acknowledged it was tough to suffer a loss after battling back and going into overtime. But Sanders knows better than to blame one thing for that predicament.
“When you sit up there and you play those long quarters and you go overtime, you want to come out with the victory. You want to be victorious,” Sanders added. “But to suffer that loss that way, it’s definitely tough. What has happened has happened, and we’ve got to move on.”
Siemian - who finished with a monster night at 368 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a slew of deep balls - said the loss “stinks.”
“I’m disappointed obviously. It stinks to lose, especially going back and forth like that,” he said. “A couple times, I thought we had it. But really, hats off to Kansas City. I thought they battled and battled. They played a really good game.”
Well, they played a good game just when they needed to. Smith finished with 220 yards, and the Chiefs running game only mustered 83 yards total.
It all came down to not making critical mistakes at key moments.
“We should have won that game, hands down,” said linebacker Brandon Marshall. “There was no way we should have lost that game. We lost it and now we’re sitting here sick.”
Shane Ray agreed.
“It’s tough playing with the effort that we played with and still losing,” Ray said. “I think when we look at the last drive, we’ll hold ourselves accountable for that. That’s on the defense. It’s a tough feeling. I haven’t been a part of too many games like this and it’s a tough thing to deal with, playing that well and losing. We’ve still got our heads up and we’re going to get back to the drawing board.”
Despite dropping to 7-4, third in the AFC West, and making their route to the playoffs that much tougher, the Broncos aren’t giving up.
Just like going for a 4th-and-1 or attempting a game-winning field goal, it’s part of this team’s DNA.
“It’s a tough division. I mean, the statistics speak for itself. ...We’ve definitely got our hands full,” Sanders said, noting that Denver has to basically win out if it wants to play in the postseason - and that’s a bit of a different position for this team. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. That’s all I can do. ...It’ll be a new challenge and a new journey, and I’m looking forward to embracing it.”
It’s hard to be the team needing other teams to help your fate, but as with other deities, football gods help those who help themselves.
The Broncos must build on the offense’s improvement in the second half, clean up the defense’s falters late in the game, and wipe out all special teams blunders - and then leave it up to the football gods for just a little help.
“Anything can happen. We’ve seen it play out last year. We didn’t know how the season was going to end up. We ended up playing it out and we got the No. 1 seed,” Miller said. “We just have to keep playing. It’s the National Football League. People are going to make plays. We’ve been on the better side of these types of games for the longest. It was just one that got away from us.”
Surely, football gods, you can see this loss as evening up the score at least a little?