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Denver Broncos can’t keep playoff hopes alive

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For the first time all season the Denver Broncos were beaten in all three phases of the game. It was the last gasp of a dying season. On to 2017.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In a sport where parity is king maintaining championship form could be the most difficult thing to do. Looking at 2016, both 2015 Super Bowl participants are on the outside of the playoff picture. For the Broncos, falling apart in Kansas City seemed to always be part of the design.

The Chiefs came out of the tunnel and looked like a Formula One car next to the Broncos, who have resembled a rusted out Gremlin on cinder blocks the last few weeks. The offensive woes are well documented, but the defense has been reliable. A steady rock that has kept the defending champs in almost every game.

Not against the Chiefs. They were gashed for more than 300 yards in the first half. Gary Kubiak called it the worst half of defense all season. Even still, Justin Simmons nabbed an interception that set the offense up for an easy score. It looked like that old 2015 magic might kick in. Brandon McManus hit a 52-yard field goal. It was uneasy, but it seemed like the Broncos were going to hang tough, and make it a game.

Wrong. With another chance at a long field goal on a 4th and 10 the Broncos tried a fake field goal. The half was winding down. The Broncos had weathered the first quarter storm. A field goal would have made it a one score game. Going into halftime that would have seemed manageable.

Instead, McManus took the pitch from Riley Dixon, and was supposed to outrun an NFL defensive back. If he could do that, he probably wouldn’t be a kicker. It was indicative of the game, and the season. Ineptitude all around.

It was hard to watch. Not only was the offense bad, per usual, but the defense played with no heart. Sure, they stiffened. No points allowed in the second and third quarter, but it was plainly visible. They were not going to get the help they needed. By the 4th quarter they were tired. A unit with injuries all of the field, and they just could not keep going.

All the while, the Kansas City Chiefs had a very merry Christmas. With under 2 minutes they capped off their win with a gimmicky Dontari Poe touchdown pass. The embarrassment was real. Aqib Talib looked disgusted as he jawed with the Chiefs offensive line. Von Miller seemed bewildered to say the least. It was the worst game they had experienced as Wade Phillips defense.

The Denver Broncos seem to have lost their way. 2015 was played with a purpose. It was special. It felt important. 2016 has been played with an uneasiness that most defending champions don’t have. That uneasiness was on full display at Arrowhead Stadium. The game was over as soon as the Chiefs put points on the board. There was a fleeting flash of excitement with the first quarter touchdown, but fleeting was all it ever was.

At 0-3 against the Chiefs and Raiders this season, 2016 can only get worse. The playoffs are gone, and a 1980 flashback seems more likely than not. There won’t be much to play for on New Years day, but at least 2016 will be dead and buried. Just like the Broncos playoff hopes.