The NFL is a results-driven industry. The Denver Broncos have struggled to get good results in 2019, and the loss to the Minnesota Vikings was really just more of the same. Maybe it felt worse because of how they arrived at a loss, but it was the perfect example of what has plagued the team all season - they can’t finish.
As I discussed with Ian St. Clair on the MHR Radio Podcast, winning games is contagious, and so is losing games. The big takeaway from the Broncos Week 11 loss is their inability to finish. We have seen game-winning drives for field goals, slow second half starts, and now a huge lead blown. All those positive vibes have taken a backseat at this point. Losing is a disease.
The first half was filled with euphoria. Shelby Harris was getting sacks. Courtland Sutton was throwing darts, and Brandon Allen was leading scoring drives. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman were combining for solid runs. Tim Patrick and Noah Fant provided big moments in the passing game.
The Broncos won the turnover battle, and time of possession. The defense held the Vikings to 37 rushing yards. Dalvin Cook led the way with a whopping 26 yards. If you turned the TV off at halftime and walked away forever, you’d be a happy camper right now.
But you didn’t. Neither did I. Football is just as much about a strong finish as it is about a fast start. In the second half it was clear that Rich Scangarello didn’t really have a plan for playing with a big lead. The weird run plays to Fant were the perfect example of a play caller trying too hard to outsmart his opponent.
The offense didn’t exactly stall, but it wasn’t rolling like in the first half. Halftime adjustments are to be expected, but it almost looked like the Broncos had no clue what to do once they had all that house money. It was like they hit a one dollar slot jackpot, and then gambled all their winnings away at a roulette table betting on double zero until it was all gone.
There was no way the defense was going to hold Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs down for a whole game. Even Cook was able to work his way into the end zone. The comeback was complete when Kyle Rudolph scored on a short pass that he turned into a 32 yard catch and run. The defense couldn’t finish the job.
At that point there was six minutes left, and there was a chance, but again, finishing seems to be the Broncos achilles heel. The offense held the ball for the rest of the game. Nineteen plays, and three from inside the Vikings five yard line over the last ten seconds. Holding onto the ball that long, with that many plays is impressive, but amounts for nothing without a score.
As time slipped away, Scangarello failed to find a play that could get the Broncos across the goal line. The players couldn’t finish the job. Perhaps the most fitting way for the game to end was with the ball bouncing off Fant’s head. Both the offense and defense failed to make the necessary plays to finish the game, and the Broncos continue to find ways to lose at the end of games.