The Denver Broncos squared off against the Buffalo Bills in an early afternoon gridiron affair. Most of Broncos Country was confident the team would be able to defeat the Bills on the road in Orchard Park, but there were some who were weary of their beloved franchise falling into a trap in Buffalo. The weary ones proved to be right, as the Broncos imploded on both sides of the ball and were defeated soundly by the Bills 26-16.
Here is how it all went down.
The Bills won the toss but deferred, which set up the Broncos with the opportunity to put points on the board first. However, it was a quick three-and-out for the Broncos, who weren’t able to do anything of note on their first drive. The Bills weren’t any better, who were halted quickly by the vaunted Broncos’ defense, with Von Miller registering a sack early on Tyrod Taylor by beating rookie Dion Dawkins.
Each team’s respective offenses followed up their non-momentum first drives with much of the same in the second, with both failing to amass much yardage. It was starting to look like this game was going to be a staunch defensive battle, but with their third offensive possession, the Broncos’ offense began to show signs of life and quickly marched down the field.
Siemian got into a good rhythm and was able to hit several receivers, including Bennie Fowler twice for key first down conversions that extended the drive. Alas, the Bills’ defense tightened up as the Broncos inched closer to pay dirt, and were forced to settle for a 38 yard field goal by Brandon McManus. That score gave the Broncos a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After being devoured by the Broncos’ defense in the first quarter, the Bills set their sights on a scoring drive of their own. A pair of big yardage throws by Taylor allowed the to breach Broncos territory, and the Bills were finally in business. On third and goal, Taylor was able to register a touchdown pass from a miracle touchdown off of a tip, which was retrieved by Andre Holmes for the score and gave the Bills a 7-3 lead.
The Broncos’ offense then took the field to attempt to answer Buffalo’s score — and they didn’t disappoint. The drive was sparked by a thirty-two yard C.J. Anderson run, plus a 15-yard late-hit penalty. On the next play, Siemian was decked in the head by Jerry Hughes, which also provided the Broncos with more free yards. Immediately after that, Jamaal Charles took advantage of terrific blocking by his teammates and rumbled thirteen yards for his first touchdown as a Bronco, putting the Broncos up 10-7 with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half.
RB @jcharles25 with his 65th career overall touchdown (1st in DEN), tying for the 7th-most by an NFL RB since he entered the league in 2008.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) September 24, 2017
The ensuing Bills drive failed to launch and the Broncos’ offense came out hungry looking to build upon their earlier outing which gave them the lead. That didn’t happen, partly due to the referees not understanding what a catch was. There poor call wiped out an Emmanuel Sanders catch that would have given the team a flop in field position, and Riley Dixon was forced to punt from his own end zone. Though the Bills’ offense was rather stagnant on the next drive, the great field position gave them the ability to attempt a field goal, which was drilled by Steven Hauschka to even up the score at 10 all, with 2:51 left to play in the second quarter.
Knowing that the Bills would receive the ball to start the second half, the Broncos’ offense dug deep and were in hot pursuit of another scoring drive. Though it didn’t result in a touchdown, the offense was able to put another field goal on the board courtesy of McManus. His thirty-five yard gooch splitter gave the Broncos a 13-10 lead on the road in Buffalo at halftime.
Or so we thought. The Broncos’ defense decided to get soft and play prevent defense (simply unacceptable), which was easy enough for Taylor and the Bills’ offense to pick apart. That led to Hauschka nailing a long field goal as time expired in the first half putting the teams at an even 13-13 score at the half’s end.
To start the second half, the Bills’ offense came out flat, which earned the Broncos the ball back early on in the third quarter to swing the momentum in the early Sunday afternoon slobber-knocker. Denver looked to establish the running game in the second half and were able to get several first downs on their second half opening drive courtesy of Charles and Andy Janovich. The Broncos could smell the blood in the water, but once again, the Bills’ red zone defense was spectacular, forcing the Broncos to settle for McManus’ third field goal of the game that gave Denver a 16-3 lead.
On the very next possesion, the Bills were able to strike back with a vengeance, swiftly marching down the field on the arm of Taylor. It took only 4 plays and less than 90 seconds for Buffalo to reach pay dirt, with Charles Clay reeling in a play-action pass from Taylor to put them up four, 20-16.
The wheels began to fall off for Denver on their next drive, as Siemian threw an interception on third down to E.J. Gaines. Lucky for the Broncos, the Bills shot themselves in the foot with a holding penalty and a Shelby Harris sack took them out of field goal range. It was a huge drive for the Broncos’ defense, which had struggled to contain Taylor and the Bills’ offense since early on in the second quarter.
The Broncos’ next series was equally as pathetic, with Vance Joseph rolling the dice on fourth down and opting to do a fake punt. That gamble didn’t work out very well, as rookie De’Angelo Henderson was stuffed for no gain. With the failed attempt, the Broncos gave the Bills tremendous field position as the third quarter came to a close. Denver’s defense was able to keep the Bills out of the end zone, but Hauschka nailed another long field goal attempt to put the Bills up 23-17.
It seemed that the game against the Bills was going to end up being the proverbial “trap” many analysts believed it could be. On the leg of Charles, the Broncos were able to come within striking distance, only to have any dream of winning the game evaporate when Siemian made a terrible decision and was picked off by Tre’Davious White. The next drive proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the Broncos due to a major screw job call by the refs. Denver’s defense stopped the Bills on third down, but Miller was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which you can see below.
That was a game-changing event, and the Bills were able to run down the clock and put another three points on the board by the foot of Hauschka. With the score 26-16, the Broncos would need two more scores to have a chance at winning, but that sort of comeback was never going to happen. The Broncos went on to lose their first game of the year and in just one poor performance, revealed themselves to be their own worst enemy.
Bills 26, Broncos 16.
Next week they host Oakland and will play a much better Raiders team than the Bills squad they faced today. If they perform as badly as they did this week, that hot 2-0 start will mean nothing and Denver could soon find themselves in a huge AFC West hole with a 2-2 record. You better pray that doesn’t happen or there will certainly be drama at Dove Valley.
Hart’s Quick Hits
- I’ll keep it short and sweet. The referees in today’s game were absolutely atrocious. The Sanders’ call, as well as the absolute bogus personal foul flag on Miller and a half other dozen questionable decisions were momentum changers, but that isn’t why the Broncos lost the game. They lost because they lacked discipline on both sides of the ball, shot themselves in the foot plenty of times on offense, and turned the ball over too many times.
- The Broncos had been league leaders in third down efficiency through the first two weeks of the season, but performed much worse against the Bills today. They were only 6/14 on third down.
- Even in a loss, Denver’s run defense was still strong. The Bills only managed to amass 75 yards on 33 carries. They were also able to get after Taylor and sack him four times, but momentary lapses in coverage were the bane of the Broncos’ defense this afternoon.
- After a spectacular first two weeks, Siemian was horrendous in today's loss to Buffalo. He was 24/40 for 259 yards and two interceptions. He has to play better and rebound against Oakland next week.
- Jamaal Charles was the lone bright spot in a Broncos' rushing attack that managed to top 100 yards as a unit. He had 9 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown score. Anderson had 36 yards on 8 carries, but 32 of those yards were on one run. Outside of that, Anderson did nothing all day long.