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Grading the Broncos 16-14 loss to Titans is a story of death by inches

The Denver Broncos suffered an agonizing loss in a game that was decided by inches. The Tennessee Titans came away with the win. Here is how we graded Denver’s performance.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In a game where they had every chance to put it away, the Denver Broncos come up short and lose 16-14 to the Tennessee Titans in Week 1.

As we look to move on from this game and look forward to next week, I figured it might be a good idea to grade the Broncos overall effort in losses this year. It’s clear we are in for some growing pains as the young offense develops chemistry and the defense overcomes injuries. It looks like we’re going to see a lot of death by inches early on this season.

Here is how we graded Monday night’s game.


My heart says to give them an F for this death by inches bullcrap, but my mind is telling me that what we all saw on Monday night is exactly what we should have expected from a team with a young quarterback, young offensive core, a new offensive coordinator and basically 17 days of practices since December of last year. The whole Vic Fangio timeout thing can also be forgiven, because if he had used those timeouts the Titans were moving the ball in chunks anyway and they would have kicked the winning field goal with no time left. The team is 0-1 and will go on the road to face a stout looking Pittsburgh Steelers defense. It looks like we’re in for another rough start to a season. - Tim Lynch


My grade is a D : “D” is for Death by a thousand cuts. Untimely penalties (neutral zone infraction on Dre’Mont Jones, bogus roughness on Alexander Johnson that negated the INT, DPI on Michael Ojemudia), the near red zone fumble by Melvin Gordon, the badly missed deep throws from Drew Lock, the missed holding penalty where the Titans center tackled Johnson on a blitz, the two drops from Jerry Jeudy and the maddening clock management at the end of the game. All of these things were contributors to the loss and all of these things are things that under normal circumstances we would hope would not have happened. Unfortunately for us, the 2020 season is anything but normal circumstances. - Joe Mahoney


On the whole give the Broncos a D+. The plus is there because they were playing without their generational pass rusher in Von Miller. Bradley Chubb is nowhere near 100%. A.J. Bouye went down with a shoulder separation. No. 1 wide recenver Courtland Sutton couldn’t complete the 10 jumping jacks required by Vic Fangio to get on the field. Key drops from a nervous rookie wide receiver in Jerry Jeudy hurt, but aren’t the end of the world. We got to see the future of QB to TE with Drew Lock finding Noah Fant on several quality plays. The defense didn’t allow Derrick Henry to run roughshod on them. All pluses.

The D stands for dumb play calling from Pat Shurmur. 4th and goal on the one and he dips into his Rich Scangarello plays for a shovel pass in traffic to Jake Butt? Dumb.

The D stands for delusional. As in, Vic Fangio was delusional for thinking Stephen Gostkowski was going to miss 5 kicks in one night. There is no explanation in the world that makes not using the time outs at the end make sense. None. Delusional.

But hey, they still almost beat a team that was in the AFC Championship last season. - Adam Malnati


This game was rife with mistakes, but wasn’t the disaster some are making it out to be. The loss sucks, but the backlash in Broncos Country has more to do with unrealistic expectations clashing with a couple of realities: 1) the reality of an extremely young offense and a sharply abbreviated offseason program and training camp, and 2) the reality of a team missing its 2 best players for the entire game, and 2 more of its top 10 talents for a massive chunk of the game. And that’s before one considers the Titans’ last game was the AFC Championship and yet we should have beat them last night. Mistakes happened, and that sucks. But don’t worry too much about them until/unless we’re making the same ones again and again. Give the offense time to grow into itself, and enjoy the flashes we got to see from guys like Gordon, Fant, Jeudy, and Lock.

And set healthy expectations. Lock-as-MVP was a fun offseason narrative, but the reality is that the offense needs a year to learn and grow before that can be more than offseason woolgathering. - Taylor Kothe


As soon as we knew Courtland Sutton was out I thought the offense would go through fits and spurts, so it was no surprise they scored just 14 points. I am however really curious why Noah Fant disappeared in the second half when he looked unstoppable in the first.

Defensively, I thought the Broncos played about as well as you could hope if you consider how much they planned to count on A.J. Bouye and Von Miller.

In the end, Vic Fangio hurts their grade the most because that clock management to end the game was excruciating. The rationale afterwords seemed to be he knew Stephen Gostkowski was struggling. I’d love for someone to ask him if he’s ever seen a kicker miss 5 kicks in a game, because that’s what he seemed to be counting on. - Joe Rowles


The teams that win, are playoff contenders, and by extension Super Bowl hopefuls make plays that are important in the moment. Those plays become important looking back at the whole game. I placed the loss on 7 plays. Three over throws in deep balls, not blaming Lock, but executed poorly. The two drops by Jeudy, which I don’t expect much more that in the future, but they were costly. The fumble by Gordon, turnovers can and usually are game changers. The alleged penalty that negated the interception. ESPN coverage and replays was really piss poor on some of that. However, the penalty hurt, a lot. Those are the types of plays that make Ws and Ls, and the Broncos execution of those plays made for the L.

I put the minus on the C for the clock management issues. It wasn’t all bad, Lock looked really good on the move and his ability to improvise showed he has a natural instinct on what the correct play is. Fant looked ready. Gordon, with the exception of the fumble, looked like he hasn’t lost a step at all. I liked the O-line play, I think Cushenberry III is going to be a real asset to the front five. But if they want wins, they have to find ways to come out on the positive of plays that make or break drives. - Casey Barrett


How would you grade the Broncos Week 1 performance against the Titans?

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