Without meaning to, Noah Fant gave the quote of the season in his post-game presser.
“That’s the golden question,” he said about what went wrong in the second half.
But that wasn’t his golden quote. It came in the next sentence.
“Like you said, we had momentum going into the second half, had a great two-minute drive to score to put us down by one score and we weren’t able to fabricate that into momentum in the second half.”
If I had to guess, he meant to say “replicate” or “duplicate” the momentum from the first half into momentum for the second half.
But in retrospect, “fabricate” is a much better word.
Fabricate: “1. to invent or concoct (something), typically with deceitful intent. Similar: fake, concoct, falsify.”
What the Broncos were doing on the field in the first half was exactly that - trying to invent a contender with deceitful intent, concoct an alternate reality where its young offense and depleted defense could somehow compete with the real deal on the other side of the field.
It wasn’t malicious fabrication, yet still an attempt to get away with false evidence, maybe hoping for a couple lucky breaks and a rare opportunity for a big play. But as often happens with fabrications, the truth was eventually exposed.
And in the second half, a defense missing five starters that has played way above its pay grade much of the season just could not defend against an air raid by Josh Allen and the Bills. And a Broncos offense that has at times shown glimpses of magic just couldn’t find that rabbit anywhere.
“Very disappointing,” said head coach Vic Fangio. “I thought offensively, we had a pretty good first half. We had a chance if we made the field goal and extra points to have 17 points and you’re looking at a tight game. Then in the second half, particularly in the third quarter and early in the fourth, we couldn’t get anything going offensively. And while that’s going on, defensively we were struggling to stop them.”
Struggling is an understatement. The Bills produced 541 yards of offense while 349 of those came from Allen’s arm and equaled two touchdowns, no interceptions and just one sack.
“They were throwing it, their passing game was getting us, with the quarterback in the pocket, we had a hard getting close to him and covering him,” Fangio said. “They had the long kickoff return too to start the second half, so it was a total team disappointing performance in the second half. Give Buffalo credit, they are a really good football team, they have a great quarterback, they have a great group of receivers and they play good defense, and that’s why they are 11-3.”
Devin Singletary’s 51-yard run for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage at the end of the fourth quarter summed up everything about the game - disappointing.
“A lot of things went wrong there,” Fangio said of the entire second half. “The kick return, the sack-fumble that got returned for a touchdown. We just didn’t play well. The entire team, all three phases.”
Lock, who threw for only 132 yards and had three sacks, was “obviously very upset” with himself after the sack-fumble.
“I just stepped up, kept my eyes downfield and didn’t necessarily feel it from behind. I should have. ...I should have just [gotten] out of the pocket and just ran,” he said, noting that he felt very good going into the second half of the game after leading a touchdown drive just before halftime. “That was a big drive for us to show that we can move the ball extremely well and when you come back out, mistakes here and there. They’re a good team and they jumped on it.”
The “here and there” mistakes seemed to come one after another until the game just unraveled, but Lock doesn’t look at the game as a “step back” in his progression as a starting quarterback - more like just a bad game to learn from along the way.
“It was definitely a bad day. It was not a good day for us,” Lock said. “I wouldn’t say that any of us are feeling in a way that we’re taking a step back, but that was not a good day for us, by any means and our job is to figure out why it wasn’t, what we did wrong, what we could have done better and go from there.”
The defense, which has been the unit holding the team in games most of the time, just couldn’t seem to hold on any longer. Justin Simmons noted the frustration in the entire locker room over the letdown performance.
“The locker room at the end of the game was how you would expect it to be. It was just very disappointing to see the outcome of how the whole game went,” he said.
Simmons, who had just six tackles for his game stats, said they knew they didn’t play their best football the first half and came out in the second half with the intent to stop Allen.
“We knew how important it was going to be to come out and get a stop, and we just didn’t do it,” he said, noting the “trickle effect” of so many difficulties in the game - playing a great offense, being down corners, not getting any breaks on spots, being on the field a lot. “It’s not a lack of effort and want-to. Guys want-to, it’s just that much more amped up. They’re a great team. They do what they do really well. We just needed to find something, and we couldn’t do it.”
Josey Jewell described it as the defense trying too hard at times, trying to make up for what they had already lost.
“It’s just real rough. Everybody wants to play better; everybody wants to do their job and today it wasn’t what we wanted,” he said, noting the inconsistency of good and poor playing. “I think the biggest thing is consistency and everybody needs do their job and not try to do too much, it’s not good. I think almost everybody was trying to do too much in certain times—trying to maybe make up for something else. ...Coach is smart, he makes the right play calls and we just need to stick to that and try to stop trying to do too many things.”
Simmons liked that assessment.
“It’s just frustrating. I heard Josey explain it. With just so much going on, you have guys compensating and trying to make up for areas that they shouldn’t make up on. That’s just the thing that happens. You get caught up in the flow of the game and how things are going and what you’re seeing, and you’ve got to ultimately just play to your job. It’s just tough. There are a lot of times we beat ourselves up, speaking defensively, but they’re a great offensive team. I think everyone knows that. We had our work cut out for us and we just didn’t make enough of the plays we should of.”
At the end of the day, there were a few Broncos highlights - a special teams fumble recovery, a sack from Jeremiah Attaochu, a great catch by Jerry Jeudy, a touchdown run from Melvin Gordon and a beautiful touchdown pass to Fant in the back corner of the end zone.
“Honestly, much of that is attributed to Drew. He did a great job of scanning the field, looking down field, looking for open receivers and he was able to connect with me,” Fant said. “He just did a great job of reading where the open guy was and delivering the ball. Especially that throw he had to me in the middle of the field, a little crossing route, great throw by him and across the body and the whole thing so I think that was a really good job on his part.”
Fant had two other good words about the loss - upset...but also motivated.
“Obviously we don’t want to be losing. I know guys are not going out in the games to lose and things like that. We have to get wins on the board. That’s what it comes down to,” he said, adding that not getting those wins is definitely frustrating, especially for the young players who haven’t experienced a winning season yet. “None of us like to lose and I know we got competitors on this team and a big nucleus of young guys that are going to fight and get this thing turned around.”
Excuses are for losers, and as Simmons pointed out, there are no injury or covid asterisks next to the Broncos’ record this season - just numbers of wins versus numbers of losses.
But the Broncos team playing the Bills on Saturday was always going to need to have its very best game plus some good breaks to compete with a team taking aim at a Super Bowl bid.
So it bears reading the second definition to “fabricate” as well:
Fabricate: “2. construct or manufacture something (especially an industrial product), especially from prepared components. Similar: build, construct, manufacture.”
Taking the season as a whole, this is what the Broncos are really trying to fabricate - preparing and building to be a future contender.