It’s a bit of a sad day as the Broncos’ non-entry into the postseason also means this last regular season game is the final Ultimate Fan Guide of the 2016-17 season.
But unlike the Broncos, who will be playing in a meaningless game, this UFG is anything but. KilledByAnAngel joins us for the first time, and he absolutely kills it (see what I did there?) with his review of the Chiefs’ game, analysis of the Broncos disappointing season but positive outlook for the offseason to come. Also, he has the greatest grandmother in the world and the best anti-Raiders fan story ever.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday that he’s "just trying to get everybody’s mind right" before the game, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here at the UFG as well.
"We’re trying to get these young kids a bunch of reps. Everybody is going to play. We’ve got some issues physically at a few spots, but we’re just trying to get our mentality right and go get excited and finish the year the right way."
Here’s to finishing the right way, Broncos Country.
MHR – It stings to lose to the Chiefs, not just once but twice. But it mostly stings because of the way the Broncos played in that game – with no passion and a lot of mental mistakes. WHY did we lose on Sunday?
KilledByAnAngel: I honestly think it was a combination of many factors. The frustration boiling over in the locker room clearly had an effect on both offense and defense. I can't imagine there were many other defenses in the league that spent quite as much time on the field as ours did, especially towards the latter half of the season.
The offense probably wanted to succeed but key components either don't have the talent or are not being put in a position to succeed, which can also be ridiculously frustrating. I don't think anybody didn't believe in the team to win - I'd like to think all of our Broncos believe they can win, otherwise they wouldn't be Broncos for long.
Short answer: too much frustration and not enough balance.
MHR – The Broncos could play spoiler to the Raiders this weekend, giving Denver technically a winning record at 9-7 and ensuring the Raiders don’t win the division. But if they lose, Broncos could have a higher draft order. What are your thoughts on this?
KilledByAnAngel: I'm of the mindset that we should always play to win. With that said, I'm viewing it more as a preseason game. If we win, that's great. If we lose, at least we will have gotten the opportunity to see some of our young guys shine. Plus, with a loss potentially increasing draft position and also screwing the Chiefs out of a bye week, it's not really all that bad.
Can't we just have the Chiefs lose to the Chargers while we win? Heck, throw in the P*ts losing to Miami randomly like last year and KC would have to go into Pittsburgh for their first playoff game instead of getting another cupcake game against the Savage-led Texans.
MHR – Does playing a Raiders team without Derek Carr significantly increase the Broncos chances this weekend, or is it a wash since Denver will likely be using a lot of new, young players? How much of a problem do you think the Raiders’ run game will be for the Broncos defense this week?
KilledByAnAngel: The Raiders without Carr are absolutely a worse team, which will increase our chances at least a little bit. Considering our depth on defense, I think even our young players will be giving Matt McGloin fits in the passing game. As in preseason, I expect to be surprised by some random depth player who looks beastly. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the Raiders need the passing game to beat us.
Their run game, featuring the most expensive offensive line in the league, has obviously worked well for them. As a team, they've averaged 4.5 yards a carry this season. It will certainly be a big problem for our defense this week, since the Raiders won't have a reason to not lean on their run game. Unlike, uh, certain coaches, they seem to know how to configure a game plan to an opponent.
MHR – Kubiak said he is planning to play both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch in the game. What do you think of this approach – is it good for the team, is it good for the two quarterbacks?
KilledByAnAngel: I understand the logic. He wants Siemian to get the bad taste of that last performance out of his mouth. They threw him to the wolves, and he's been running for his life, so it makes sense to try and send him into the offseason with a slightly better experience. With that said, I would have just played Lynch for this entire game.
Siemian is a tough guy, and he can use that last loss to motivate himself in the offseason. I'd like to see what Lynch looks like now that we're at the end of the season. Is he learning as he goes? Evolving each time he got a chance to play? I'd like a little tease of these oft-cited intangibles to leave us salivating for another training camp QB competition.
MHR – This game will be about pride. Do you think the offense and defense will respond as such?
KilledByAnAngel: Defense? Hell yeah. The young guys are getting a chance to go wreak havoc on a division rival. CHJ and Talib are going to want to finish out the year with their top spots in the rankings, as well as ensuring that we finish with the No. 1 passing defense.
Offense? It's not that I think that they don't have pride, but we were having issues with chemistry before, and now we will be mixing in backup players. I expect similar struggles as all season since drastic changes will have to wait until the offseason.
MHR – Which Broncos defensive player will be this week’s star? Shaq Barrett.
MHR – Which Broncos offensive player will be this week’s star? Let's be optimistic and go with Paxton Lynch. Or maybe Billy Turner turns out to be an outstanding guard who just didn't have enough chances this season and that can be one less position to stress about.
MHR – For the first time in a while (since 2010) the Broncos will be sitting at home in the postseason, so let’s talk about how much we all hate that fact. Looking back, what were your predictions/hopes going into this season? After a few days to process the loss to Kansas City, how are you feeling about this team right now
KilledByAnAngel: I really do hate that we aren't even in the playoffs. I would have rather made the playoffs and lost there than be bounced from contention early. Not only is it the first time in 13 years that both Super Bowl teams have missed the playoffs, but it is the fifth time in NFL history. Of those five times, Denver has been involved in three of them. The last time it happened to us, we had another HOF QB retire after our SB win.
Even with that in mind, I was much more optimistic heading into the season - especially after winning our first four games and keeping things competitive in games. My preseason hope was that we would grab ourselves another championship (19 - 0 until we ain't!). As the season progressed, I realized we were going to stumble a bit. But I was still hoping for an 11 - 5 finish.
As our offense (play-calling, scheming, execution) all collapsed down the stretch, my expectations tempered. With that said, I'm not all that down about the team right now! It has been made resoundingly clear that our trenches desperately need help, and I trust Elway to make the appropriate moves this offseason. It's no different from when he saw that our defense needed help and brought in Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward.
MHR – Where did things first go wrong for the Broncos this season – was it something we should have foreseen last year or less big picture and just lack of execution this year?
KilledByAnAngel: In my mind, we have two huge issues: 1) offensive line 2) run defense. Both of these things should have absolutely been foreseen. The OL has been subpar for several years running, which was so obvious that even Stevie Wonder could have pointed it out. After last year's Schofield-Mack Debacle, something like that should have never happened again. Manning was able to compensate for some of the deficiencies, but it's not like anybody was pretending that our OL was great.
It's not just the players not executing properly. It's about scheming around your deficiencies so you don't have somebody racking up stats via human turnstiles. It's also about bringing in actual talent instead of signing someone like Stephenson.
The run defense was bound to take a hit after Malik Jackson left, and I'm not sure enough was ever done to fill that gap, especially after Vance Walker went down.
MHR – If you could go back and change one decision that Gary Kubiak made this season, what would it be and why? How could this change have made a difference in the season’s outcome?
KilledByAnAngel: I would change his decision to operate game planning and play calling the way that he has. It is painfully obvious to everyone watching that it was not working, so why stick with it? In some cases it was the decision to abandon the run too early. In other cases it was the decision to keep running the same up-the-gut run on 3rd and 1, knowing that our OL can't open up that kind of hole. Where the heck were the outside runs, sweeps, etc? Or basically anything to stretch the defense?
MHR – The offensive line has been an obvious Achilles Heel for this team, but figuring out how to fix it has not been so obvious. Do you think the biggest issue has been with Elway not drafting or signing the right players, or with position coaches not being able to "coach up" the talented-but-raw players on the field?
The draft picks on OL, with the exception of Matt Paradis, have resulted in some less-than-inspiring results. I am not sure who in our scouting department is responsible for linemen, but he's going to need some help.
As for signing the right players, I think we all had that same general WTF reaction when Elway's first move in the offseason was to sign Donald Stephenson for way too much money. Even KC fans were trying to warn us about this guy. We can't collect other people's garbage, hoping that we can somehow coach them into treasure. We don't have Belichick on staff.
If we are going to continue to work with undersized, raw linemen, then we need to have the right coaches to make these guys shine.
MHR – Where do you stand on the coaching versus execution debate for what is more/most wrong with this offense this year?
KilledByAnAngel: I would put the majority of the blame on the coaching staff. In situations where you are putting a guy on the edge of the OL and telling him, "Block this massive guy on your own" – and that lineman is trying the best he can and still failing miserably – then you need to help him out. Saying, "We are going to keep battling and men need to step up" does not work if the person is not physically capable of playing the position.
That's not to say that there hasn't been a fair share of execution issues too. I've seen too many dropped passes (including a few would-be TDs) as well as way too many ball security issues. That's great that the coaching staff has faith in Jordan Norwood (or Norwood has naked pictures of somebody), but if a player keeps coughing up the ball, get him out of that situation. He's not executing per the game plan.
MHR – The defense has been great but not quite as stellar as last season. Is that primarily because of the unit being on the field so often and usually playing from behind – or because the team is really missing key run defenders?
KilledByAnAngel: It's absolutely both things. Our vital run defenders were lost to either free agency or injury and we had no one on the roster capable of filling up the hole. I feel like a lot of Danny Trevathan's role was filled okay, but losing Malik and Walker hurt us badly.
At the same time, our offense was trying to get us the trophy for most three-and-outs in a single season, which strained our already weakened defense. We also did not win the war of attrition quite so well this year.
MHR – Broncos placed DeMarcus Ware on IR and there is speculation he may be done in Denver. What can you say about his contributions to this Broncos’ defense
KilledByAnAngel: Ware just Instagrammed (is that a word?) this morning: "Pedal is always to the metal and fuel is still in the tank. #VroomVroom"
Say he goes in for his back surgery and finally gets right and still wants to play on a cheaper salary. It would be beneficial for both sides to bring him back for situational downs.
But no matter what, this man – with his Adonis good looks and body chiseled from granite plus a smile that could melt through anything – has been a godsend for the Broncos, especially the way he has been able to guide Von Miller to the next level of adulthood and responsibility. As long as Ware still wants to play, we owe it to him to try to get him back out there.
Stats for Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch? 12/18 for 150 yards, 1 TD / 0 INT for Siemian; 15/28 for 166 yards, 1 TD / 1 INT for Lynch.
Number of carries/yards rushing for Broncos RBs? 12 attempts for 42 yards.
Number of yards receiving for Broncos WRs? 5 for 52 yards for Sanders; 8 for 92 yards for Thomas.
Number of sacks to Siemian/Lynch? 4 sacks
Number of sacks to Matt McGloin? 3 sacks
Broncos player with the most sacks? Barrett
Broncos player with the most tackles? Todd Davis
How many turnovers for the Broncos D? 2
Final Score? Broncos 20, Raiders 17
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish THIS SEASON? The season opener. Everything from Janovich's introduction to the NFL, to C.J. Anderson taking that screen pass to the house, to CHJ's tip and diving interception. Plus winning on the last-minute field goal miss by Gano for that extra bit of heart-stopping tension.
Favorite Broncos win EVER? Super Bowl 50. It just meant so much to be able to send another HOF QB into that orange sunset with another championship.
Team you hate to lose to the most? The Chiefs. The players and fans are just so classless.
Team you love to beat? Patriots
Game you most wish we had back to do over this season? The first Kansas City game. We played well enough to win, and to lose like that was brutal.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Emmanuel Sanders. So much heart and so much fire!
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Justin Simmons. Very well spoken and seems to be developing into a hell of a player.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Terrell Davis
Superstitions on game day? I can't wear any kind of Broncos gear. Every time I wear a jersey, hat, shirt, ANYTHING - they end up losing. From my limited testing, I have determined that this curse does not extend to wearing my jersey to an actual game, as we were there last year when we beat the Steelers in the playoffs.
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? As much as I love the orange jerseys and being #UnitedInOrange, I'd have to go with the dark blue jerseys, white pants and orange stripe ala SB 32.
Favorite TD celebration? Mile High Salute!
Favorite Von Miller sack dance? It HAS to be the McCringleberry pelvis pumps.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I was born in Boulder, so my membership card to this orange fandom was issued alongside my birth certificate. Almost the entire family comprises Broncos fans. My wife wasn't much of a football fan before we got married and now she bleeds orange and blue like the rest of us. I think she wears more Broncos clothing than I do. Even now that my cousins have started their own families, the Broncos tradition has been carried down the family tree.
Except for one cousin - the ever-obnoxious Raiders fan. He used to love making my grandma (Matriarch of our Broncos family) angry by rooting for the Raiders or talking garbage about the Broncos while they were playing.
That lasted until she picked up her cane and thumped him on the head. I'll never forget the empty thud that a Raiders fan's skull makes.