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The one big takeaway is the Broncos come up small in big moments

It was a game filled with shrinking, and the Broncos fell short when it mattered most.

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Winning football games is hard. The Denver Broncos are learning how much harder it is with an incompetent coaching staff and a bad quarterback. Case Keenum let the air out of Mile High on more than one occasion against the Cleveland Browns. And at the end, a lack of confidence in Orton-lite caused the coaches to make a series of cowardly play calls.

The one big takeaway from the Broncos loss to the Browns is that Joseph and his staff, and Keenum shrank in the biggest moments. It isn’t just time for the Vance Joseph era to end, but he can take Keenum with him. As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the MHR Radio podcast after the 17-16 loss, this combination is orange sherbet and sardines. Gross.

The worst part in all this is how much Broncos history was made. Von Miller passed Simon Fletcher for all-time sack leader in franchise history. And the Broncos lost to the Browns for the first time since 1990. Bradley Chubb inched closer to the rookie sack record, and the Broncos inched closer to their second consecutive losing season, a feat not accomplished since 1972.

The game was supposed to be a highlight of the young players in the league. A Future’s game, as I called it in my preview article. And it was. Rookies and young players were on display all over the field. It was sloppy, with too many penalties to count (someone else can count them). The Browns bottled up Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, daring Keenum to beat them. He didn’t.

Baker Mayfield got the win for the Browns, but he wasn’t exactly lights out. He had his issues as well. Even though many in Broncos Country pine for a quarterback with his future, myself included, he still has a long way to go before he is a superstar in the league.

There were a couple defining moments in the game. Key plays that tell you all you need to know about the Denver Broncos in 2018. The first came after Von Miller’s record breaking sack. As the stadium continued to celebrate Von Miller’s record breaking sack, Case Keenum did what Case Keenum does. The first play after the punt he throws off his back foot, under pressure, into the waiting arms of the Browns TJ Carrie.

The feeling wasn’t of air escaping Mile High. It wasn’t a bursting balloon. It was the sad realization that this was exactly what we all should have expected. No one should have been shocked to watch Keenum float a ball harmlessly into the arms of a player wearing the wrong colored jersey. And that sadness shifted for many into anger. We have been fooled time and again this season. If the loss to the 49ers was a cold shower on Broncos Country’s playoff hopes, that interception was your little brother flushing the toilet while you were showering. You knew it was coming, you just hoped you could get away without too much shrinkage.

The second defining moment was the play calling as Denver moved into scoring position at the end of the game. With a broken and battered secondary, a defense that was tired and light on man power, Bill Musgrave shrank. Perhaps it was his lack of confidence in Keenum, but from the 8 yard line, Denver ran the ball three times. Phillip Lindsay, Phillip Lindsay, Phillip Lindsay - field goal? Really? Down by four, and you play for three? The laughter you may have heard came from all the fans who just didn’t want to cry.

The Broncos needed a touchdown right there. No question about it, the defense had left everything they had out on the field. They gave up 17 points. That was all. It was a number that most in Broncos Country would have been happy to see. But instead of lifting the defense up, after they had held the offense up all game, Joseph and Musgrave, shrank in the moment, and kicked a meaningless field goal.

Is there a better metaphor for the 2018 Denver Broncos?

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