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6 winners, 7 losers, 1 both from the Broncos tough 26-21 loss to the Steelers

Despite the injuries, the Broncos still had a shot to win this game. For the second game in a row, Denver came up a bit short.

There are no more moral victories in sports or in the NFL.

But when a team like the Denver Broncos gets ravaged by injuries and still finds a way to keep it close with a team that was favored by 6.5 points and could compete for a Super Bowl this season, you have to feel good about it. That’s especially true when one of the injuries is to quarterback Drew Lock.

At the same time, Denver had a great chance to win this game with two plays and only two yards to pick up with about two minutes remaining. When the Broncos needed the defense to make a key play, it didn’t. In both instances, it’s the second time it’s happened to start the 2020 season.

At least in my mind, I’m not mad or disappointed at the outcome. This was always going to be a tough game for Denver, and that was before the injuries. I love the fight this team showed. I don’t like that the Broncos didn’t convert either of those two plays to pick up two yards on offense or that the defense couldn’t make a stop when possession flipped. As I was typing this, I said I would be patient and not panic, but the injury to Lock changes things.

The bottom line — Denver lost 26-21 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and starts the season 0-2.

Per the usual, I’m bound to forget someone or leave them off, so please mention them in the comments.

Winners

Noah Fant

The Broncos second-year tight end was one of the best players on the field. When he finally got targeted, he made huge plays. Fant finished with four catches for 57 yards including a touchdown and two-point conversion catch.

Melvin Gordon

Gordon was another of the best players on the field for Denver on Sunday. His 16-yard touchdown catch from backup quarterback Jeff Driskel was a thing of beauty. Gordon finished the game with 70 yards rushing on 19 carries and two catches for 14 yards including that touchdown.

KJ Hamler

In his first NFL game, the Broncos rookie receiver had a game. He only had three receptions for 48 yards and one carry for nine, but we got a glimpse of what Hamler can bring to the offense.

Justin Simmons

Denver’s safety was all over the field. He had a huge interception that led to a field goal that gave the team some much needed confidence. He also had a game-high eight tackles (seven solo). Simmons also had two passes defended and one tackle for loss.

Mike Purcell

When your defense only gets one sack and you’re responsible for it, you make the list. Purcell also had one of the three quarterback hits for the Broncos. Aside from that, there wasn’t anything from Denver’s defensive line or pass rush. While Bradley Chubb didn’t register any sacks, he made an impact on this game and made some plays that led to key stops. For that, Chubb gets an honorable mention.

Garett Bolles

The Broncos left tackle got his first holding penalty this season, but that’s about all he did wrong. For the second week in a row, Bolles had a strong game for Denver. One could make the argument that he was the best offensive lineman on Sunday.

Both

Jeff Driskel

Give the quarterback credit. He played with moxie and kept the Broncos in the game. I mentioned the touchdown pass to Gordon; he also had one to Fant. The reason he’s on “both,” is the fourth-and-two play where he missed two wide open receivers. Yes, the blitzing safety wasn’t picked up but he has to get that ball out. Driskel finished 18-for-34 passing for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Losers

Special teams

In a word, this aspect of the game was horrible on Sunday. The coverage and tackling is the perfect “how not to play special teams in the NFL” video.

Sam Martin

Dropped a punt in the endzone that led to a safety early in the fourth quarter. That was huge for Denver because on that fourth-and-two, it could have kicked a field goal to tie the game at 24-24.

Elijah Wilkinson

The Broncos right tackle was not good (thanks, John Madden). Vic Fangio and Mike Munchak need to consider making the switch to Demar Dotson. What Denver got out Wilkinson on Sunday will not cut it.

Defensive line

No interior push to stop the running game or pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Non-existent. Speaking of which ...

Pass rush

What pass rush? This was where you could feel and see the absence of Von Miller.

Michael Ojemudia

It was a rough day for the rookie cornerback. He dropped an interception and gave up two touchdowns while being picked on by Roethlisberger all day. It will be interesting to see if Fangio sticks with the rookie or goes with De’Vante Bausby against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You know Brady will do the same thing next Sunday.

Injuries

This is getting ridiculous. It’s not just the injuries, either, it’s who is getting injured. Now Lock is out two-six weeks with shoulder injury. There’s also concern about Sutton’s knee on top of all of this. I still haven’t mentioned Dre’Mont Jones or DeMarcus Walker, who were both injured as well. And it’s not just the Broncos. The whole NFL is getting hit with injuries. Welcome to 2020.