After an incredible Monday Night Football showdown, the Denver Broncos crumbled in the fourth quarter and lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 27-23. It was a game that the Broncos dominated early on, but unfortunately, a series of miscues in the fourth quarter ultimately led to their demise and them slipping to a 2-2 record. Here are five things we learned from tonight’s loss.
1. This loss was a heart-breaker
After dominating the pace of the game for three quarters, the Broncos collapsed in the fourth quarter when it mattered most. It was the first game the Broncos had blown a ten point lead while entering the fourth quarter in more than a decade. Words can’t even describe how heart-breaking this is. Missed calls by the refs, blown coverage on defense, errant throws on the final drive of the game and an impeccable performance by Patrick Mahomes, who was incredible in the final quarter of the game were all culprits in this disaster.
2. The Broncos’ defense crumbled in the fourth quarter
One of the most annoying parts about tonight’s broadcast on Monday Night Football was Booger McFarland’s ridiculous repetition of the “Showtime Mahomes” moniker. Every time I heard him say it, which bordered on nearly a million instances, I wanted to throw my television out of the window. While there is no doubt that Mahomes has been beyond impressive this season, the Broncos’ defense played an amazing game and limited the Chiefs’ offense that was scoring points at a pinball game pace — until the fourth quarter.
Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were all silent until the fourth quarter, but that’s when “Showtime” began to show the kind of player he is going to be in the league for a long time. Under the guidance of the second-year signal caller, the Chiefs were able to erase a ten point deficit and comeback to beat the Broncos in the final minutes of the game. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it happened, but hopefully the Broncos can find some sort of positives out of this loss and be prepared to beat the New York Jets on the road next weekend.
3. The Broncos’ running game was in top form, but was underutilized
As I emphasized numerous times this week, the Chiefs defense has struggled all year long stop the run, so it would be wise for the Broncos to establish the run and keep doing so often. Even though they had success early on, the Broncos’ coaching staff failed to realize how effective their rushing attack was. At times, I found myself wondering if the coaches were witnessing live what we were seeing on television at home.
Rookie tailbacks Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay provided the offense with a much needed spark and continued to prove that they will be a formidable duo for years to come. In the first half alone, the Broncos rushed 11 times for 93 yards — good enough for a staggering 9 yard per carry average. On the night, the two combined for 20 carries, 136 yards and two touchdowns. Instead of throwing the ball on first down and running silly screen plays at inopportune times, the Broncos should have placed a higher emphasis on running the ball — because it was working.
4. Garett Bolles had another up and down performance
One of the big takeaways from tonight’s game was the lackluster pass protection provided by their offensive line early on in the game, in particular offensive tackles Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer. Bolles had an extremely rough first quarter, allowing a sack and having a penalty called against him. Veldheer exited the game early in the second quarter and was replaced by Billy Turner, who appeared to do well in his stead.
But let’s go back to Bolles for a moment. The Broncos claimed to have had a Top 10 grade on Bolles in the NFL Draft when they selected him two years ago, but he certainly hasn’t played like a top draft pick. On a weekly basis, it’s almost a virtual certainty that he will allow an untimely sack or commit penalties that kill drives. In fact, he is tied for (or now has) the league lead in penalties in that regard. I’m not giving up on the second-year player yet, but there is no doubt he needs to improve moving forward.
Given the aforementioned and Veldheer being in a contract year, offensive tackle should certainly be one of the Broncos’ top priorities to address this coming offseason. Whether it’s via free agency or the 2019 NFL Draft — the Broncos need to add some top-tier caliber to their offensive trenches. A little bit of competition and pressure may be a way to give Bolles a wake-up call to improve upon the continuous errors and deficiencies he has failed to improve upon since his rookie year.
Garett Bolles struggling again. Holding. Declined. John Elway said on our pregame show that primary reason for Musgrave-Strausser switch was for Strausser to be down on sidelines helping with Bolles. Strausser is working with Bolles now. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) October 2, 2018
5. Courtland Sutton impressed, showcasing future No. 1 receiver potential
Rookie wide receiver and second-round draft selection Courtland Sutton was arguably the most intriguing player through camp and the preseason, but hasn’t had quite the impact some were expecting early on in his career. However, tonight was a step in the right direction for the Southern Methodist University product who had a handful of key grabs that helped jump start the Broncos’ offense and move the ball down the field. Just take a look at his incredible 42-yard snag below.
The above illustrates the reason why Broncos fans are so excited about his potential with the team. He also drew a big-time pass interference call in the end zone at the end of the third quarter that put the Broncos in position to take the lead. Sutton’s continued progression will be essential for the franchise, who will have tough decisions to face with high-priced veteran wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason. The two are scheduled combine for $30 million against the cap next season (Thomas ~ $17.5 million, Sanders ~ $13 million), but it’s doubtful the Broncos will dole out that much cash to both. Without question, Sutton has all the tools to become a top-flight receiver in the National Football League and the team was lucky that he fell to the second day of the draft.
So Broncos Country, what were your five big observations from tonight’s game? Sound off in the comments section and make your voice heard!