Losing a game after playing well is disappointing and soul-crushing.
Losing a game because there was never a plan to win is therapy-inducing.
ICYMI: Broncos were the latter yesterday in a 30-20 thrashing in the Black Hole (and I cannot tell you how painful that is to write).
The Broncos did not lose to the Oakland Raiders because they were obviously less-talented heading into the game.
Among other things, this week’s coaching in Dove Valley apparently didn’t include instructions for staying in the end zone on kickoffs even though statistics show the Broncos have given back a bazillion yards by starting drives way behind the 25.
And by a bazillion, I mean 40 yards lost (aka, way more than should have ever occurred).
MHR’s Joe Mahoney reports that Broncos have returned 13 kickoffs this year but only three had to be returned because the ball did not reach the end zone. And on those 13, Broncos have only started one drive beyond the 25 (against the Bengals when Cody Latimer took one out 46 yards).
So there has never been a plan to just take the touchback and keep the better starting field position.
Average drive-start position:— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 7, 2016
Oakland -- at its 35.
Denver -- at its 17.
This week’s coaching also didn’t include looking at the numbers and noticing that prior to Sunday night the Raiders had the 29th-ranked defense against the run and 28th against the pass – 31st overall in defensive rank.
It should have been the chance of a lifetime for this Broncos’ offense to establish a running game, even with backups Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs taking the lead.
But there was no plan for that. Instead:
Drive one – starting from the Broncos’ 14 – went three-and-out in 23 seconds on three dropped passes.
Drive two: three-and-out again on two dropped passes and one attempt at a run – 57 seconds total.
Drive three: run, incomplete pass, four-yard pass on 3rd-and-7 – 1:01 time of possession.
Officiating highly suspect tonight...but not the reason #Broncos are losing.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 7, 2016
This is why (mostly TOP): pic.twitter.com/MwJL7uIuk5
By the end of the first quarter, the Broncos’ offense had been on the field for two minutes and 11 seconds.
TWO MINUTES! (and we wondered why the defense gave up 200-plus yards rushing in the game?)
Because when the Broncos planned to throw the ball eight out of nine times to open the game, the only thing they were planning for was to put their defense on the field all night.
And as much as this Broncos defense has saved its offense for one-and-a-half seasons, a two-to-one time of possession will break down even the best.
Sunday night = exhibit A.
Comments from both teams after the game said it all – the Raiders prepared for what they knew the Broncos’ offense and defense would do; the Broncos prepared to "play hard" (because, you know, playing hard always wins games).
On the other side of the ball, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was stymied but not stopped by the No Fly Zone, and Carr smartly stayed away from Chris Harris Jr. while going after Bradley Roby, Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon all night – all three of whom drew pass interference calls trying to cover.
Carr and the Raiders offense also attacked from the ground early and often. Unlike Denver, Oakland kept running the ball, and even as the Broncos D held the Raiders to field goals early on, the damage was being done and would unravel in the fourth quarter.
"We wanted to run the ball coming in," said running back Latavius Murray who contributed 114 of the Raiders’ 218 rushing yards. "We knew they had given up a lot of rushing yards, so we knew we had to run the ball to go out there and be successful and we were able to do that really well."
Yes. Yes, they were.
Per Andrew Mason, Raiders’ 218 yards rushing were the most allowed by the Broncos in 75 games. The last big one was against the Patriots in 2012 when New England rushed for 251 yards.
First half stats - Siemian 10/20, 122 yards, 1 TD; Carr, 12/20, 122 yards. Difference is run game - #Broncos 23 rushing yards, #Raiders 124.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 7, 2016
Gary Kubiak contended his team "had enough juice" and was ready to play but didn’t get off to a good start – and then things went from bad to worse on offense, defense and special teams.
"We lost the field position battle all night long. Offensively we got off to a horrible start, four three-and-outs. Defensively we started off playing good…then we gave up 220-plus yards rushing," the coach said. "That’s a team not playing good enough to win. That’s what I just told the players. We’ve got to improve, get back to work."
Brandon Marshall and Von Miller acknowledged after the game that they already practice hard.
"We’ve got to watch the film, get back to the lab like we always do and just lean on our guys," Miller said. "I love all these guys. I win with them, and I’m going to lose with them too. That’s what I’ve got to offer right now – love and hard work. I point a finger at myself to work even harder. I already work hard, but it’s another level I feel I could take it to – not for me but for my teammates."
Let's start counting holds on Von for fun. I'm at 3 in this drive.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 7, 2016
Marshall thought maybe better intention in practice could help.
"We’ve got to just get back to the drawing board man and you know fight and just practice harder," Marshall said. "I think we practice hard, but it’s just not translating."
The run defense was exposed hard. Losing Derek Wolfe and Brandon Marshall to injury later in the game didn’t help, but the Raiders were beating up on the Broncos long before that.
The depth of the secondary was clearly not as good as thought when facing a quarterback-receiver duo that could rightfully argue it is elite, rather than just good (as claimed by T.J. Ward last week). The pass rush still did its thing pressuring Carr despite no-call after no-call on holding against Miller.
"I think when you look at the plays where there was so many missed tackles, maybe some missed assignments that we had, and the yards after the catch," said DeMarcus Ware. "Those were really big, so we need to make sure that we go back to the fundamentals of football, and work on those things in practice."
But in the end, it still comes down to the offense not executing, though there were a few impressive highlights - Brandon McManus’ 55-yard field goal (twice), Jordan Norwood’s touchdown catch, Kapri Bibbs’ 69-yard touchdown off a short pass, Siemian’s 26-yard beauty to Virgil Green.
Siemian had a few very good passes and several bad ones. Some were drops to be blamed on the receivers and some were just too short to matter. But in the end, much of the struggle can be pinned on the lack of a running game.
"Yeah, it’s tough being in a hole like that. Four three-and-outs…that’s not good for the whole football team," said Siemian, adding that it was tough to get into offensive rhythm. "Whatever you’ve got to do – claw, scratch, fight – just find a way to get a first down, stay on the field, and hopefully get a little rhythm going."
"Our biggest thing is just staying on the field." - @TrevorSiemian on offensive problems versus Raiders.— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) November 7, 2016
Kubiak believes Siemian "is a battler" and is improving each week. The coach argued that throwing the ball 33 times (versus 12 rushing plays) is tough on everyone – from the quarterback to the offensive line.
"We’re getting into a brand of football that’s throw, throw, throw – hell it’s not even fair to [the line]," Kubiak noted. "We’ve got to find a way to run the ball some how some way to help our football team. Obviously the last two weeks it has been pretty non-existent It’s been tough."
You know why that is, coach?
Because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.