Taking on a day most joyous to so many in the world, Broncos Country once again was forced to collectively bow their heads in shame as their team was once again humiliated in the national spotlight.
Perhaps the only quote that can truly encompass the latest in a series of terrible performances is by Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott in The Office:
“Happy birthday Jesus, sorry your party’s so lame.”
$245 million QB Russell Wilson threw three interceptions before finally finding tight end Greg Dulcich in the end zone in garbage time, was sacked six times, and completed just north of 50% of his passes. The spark he showed in the Kansas City comeback attempt just a couple of weeks ago appears to have been an exception to the rest of the season, not a sign of progress, and for the Denver Broncos, that’s very unfortunate.
The defense, which has been the lone bright spot most of the season, finally seems to have buckled after carrying the team all season, as they surrendered 51 points, made running back Cam Akers (who has been riding the bench most of the season) look like Barry Sanders and QB Baker Mayfield, on his second team this season, look as crisp and efficient as a young Tom Brady.
Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, after the team’s 11th loss of the season, could only shrug his shoulders and say basically what Broncos fans have all been saying since the first month of the season.
“I think (the team) is upset for all the losing,” Hackett told media after the game. “We all are, every one of us. It’s unacceptable, that’s not what we’re about. That’s not what we want to do.”
Make no mistake, this was supposed to be a winnable game for the Broncos. The team won without Russell Wilson over the Arizona Cardinals and nearly made an improbable comeback vs. Super Bowl-hopeful Kansas City Chiefs. Given that the Los Angeles Rams were also sitting on a 4-10 record entering the game, there was reason to think it was more likely the Broncos would win this game as opposed to getting completely blown out.
It turns out the performances outside of the Cardinals and Chiefs games are still the norm for this franchise.
“We went in with the mindset that we were gonna be able to win this game, but in the end we weren’t ready,” Hackett continued. “We didn’t do the things we were looking to do, and in that case, it wasn’t good enough, and those guys know that...it always starts with me, without a doubt, and that was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed.”
The defense had been showing signs of wearing down the past couple of contests, and today’s performance appeared to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. The 51 points allowed to the Rams were the second-most surrendered this season, as only the Colts, who gave up 54 to the Cowboys earlier this season, had surrendered more.
Safety Justin Simmons did not mince words after the game about his unit’s performance.
“We got our ass kicked all across the board,” Simmons said matter-of-factly. “Run, pass, all 11 of us didn’t do our jobs. Credit to (the Rams) how they attacked our defense today, but we just didn’t give ourselves a chance vs. the Run game...we just couldn’t stop the run all day.”
With only two games left in the season, the Broncos have all but certainly given a top-five draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks from the Russell Wilson trade, and the new ownership group is going to have to be prepared to make some tough decisions.
Nathaniel Hackett’s seat is so hot that it’s surprising he’s still able to keep his pants intact after sitting down. George Paton, the man who gave Russell Wilson the $245 million contract and $165 million guaranteed without ever seeing him take a snap as a Bronco may not feel so comfortable. And Wilson himself, who appears to be a shell of his former self, just how much can the franchise afford to gamble that a new staff will fix all his issues?
Hopefully for Broncos Country the morning was spent happily with friends and family and good times were had all around. The only gift the Broncos can give fans at this point is the reality that the season is only two weeks longer and that the new ownership is committed to making changes.
Outside of that, the team left a very grinchy taste in the mouths of anyone who was forced to bear witness to this latest debacle of professional football.