The Denver Broncos found yet another way to lose a football game and the theme of the last six years continues for a franchise that no longer knows what its like to have competitive fire or desire. Their 31-21 defeat to the New York Jets is just another loss in a long line of ugly losses, often to equally poor football teams.
There are predictably a lot of losers to choose from, but I’ll focus on the main losers from this game and, yes, we do have a couple of winners today so let’s start with those.
Patrick Surtain II
The only player likely safe from potential trade offers ahead of the October 31st deadline is Patrick Surtain. The Adam Schefter report did say “almost any player” on the defensive side of the ball and if there was one player not available it would be Surtain. His interception of Zach Wilson came at a critical moment late in the fourth quarter that gave the Broncos offense a chance to win the game - which they fumbled away.
Surtain is clearly the cornerstone piece on defense that the team must build around. Hopefully they can do that before he retires.
Early in the game, the Broncos had scripted Jaleel McLaughlin heavily in the game. He gashed the Jets defense for several big plays, including this 22-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Russell Wilson.
He shredded the Jets defense for 86 total yards in the first half and it looked like he was on the verge of a breakout game for Denver. Unfortunately, he wasn’t utilized much at all in the second half and added just 3 yards to his total after halftime.
Add Sean Payton’s name to the long list of head coaches that have failed to immediately turn things around in Denver. This franchise has had so many head coaches since 2016 that I don’t even care to go look it up at this point. Payton is just another guy unable to change the culture or correct the long downward trend of this Broncos franchise.
The home loss to the Jets featured an offense that looked like it might be able to take control and win the game outright, but multiple trips inside the 10 yard line resulted in field goals and then they went on an ugly stretch of five drives to start the second half that netted a combined -18 total net yards. Not even Nathaniel Hackett’s 2022 Broncos had a stretch of drives that bad.
The Broncos’ first five second-half drives are beyond abysmal.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) October 8, 2023
3 plays, 4 net yards, punt
3 plays, -4 net yards, punt
3 plays, -6 net yards, punt
2 plays, -10 net yards, fumble
3 plays, -2 net yards, punt
Checkmate on that one, Sean.
Sheesh, where do I start with Vance Joseph?
I guess I could start with the run defense. They have one of the 10-worst three-game stretches against the run in NFL history now after giving up 234 yards rushing to the Jets on Sunday. The irony is that Denver has two of those worst three-game stretches with the other being the 2018 Broncos. Guess who was the head coach in 2018? Yeah... none other than Vance Joseph.
Then there is the fun reality that his 2023 defense is the worst defense ever recorded by DVOA. They are currently dead last in about 80% of the defensive categories measured. It’s just all-around horrendous. Not sure how Payton justifies keeping the status quo after this next Thursday Night Football game if these trends continue.
The Bronco defense is currently allowing 36.2 ppg (admittedly the offense allowed 9 points last game). 20 teams in NFL history have allowed >30 ppg. They have averaged 2.8 regular season wins. https://t.co/951Sc5USjZ— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) October 9, 2023
If I am being honest, Russell Wilson is the best quarterback this franchise has had since Peyton Manning. But also, the bar honestly isn’t that high and Wilson is barely clearing it. For the cost of many, many draft picks, he hasn’t made the difference any of us had hoped or expected.
While he isn’t the issue in 2023, he also isn’t the solution. Looking over his contract, the Broncos are clearly stuck with Wilson for at least the next two seasons after this season is over. The dead money is astronomical until 2026. Denver needs to plan for the future while trying to figure out how to win some games with Wilson as its quarterback.
All that Wal-Mart money and what did Penner get? The franchise likely hit absolute rock bottom in 2022, but they are spending more time at rock bottom in 2023 with their historically bad defense. The question for Penner is what to do about it? Do another round of firing everyone from George Paton to Sean Payton and expect someone to come in and magically fix everything or remain patient and allow his hires to rebuild the roster?
They might still fail, but I believe when you are as bad as the Broncos are you have to give the people you hire time to fix the program. It just sucks for us fans to have to suffer through that kind of pain year after year after year. But hey, at least we didn’t spend 4+ billion dollars to suffer through it!