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Instant Reactions: Broncos stunned by Patriots on Christmas Eve

Despite some fourth quarter heroics, the Denver Broncos lost to the New England Patriots 26-23.

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

You can kiss the playoffs goodbye, Broncos Country. That dream is officially over.

The Denver Broncos were defeated by the New England Patriots tonight on Christmas Eve 26-23 on a last second 56-yard field goal by Chad Ryland.

Hopefully you are all getting something better for Christmas than the performance we say tonight. Here are some takeaways from today’s game and some other thoughts relative to the Broncos.

Different game, same old story on offense—despite fourth quarter heroics

In order for the Broncos to win this game the offense needed to come out fast and play well. In my pod this week, I talked about how important it was for Russell Wilson to play at a high level and show the team and fans he was worth keeping around beyond this season. He certainly didn’t show it tonight.

Once Courtland Sutton was ruled out with a head injury, Denver’s passing offense sputtered. The running game was so-so and largely abandoned in the second half after being down sixteen points. The Broncos were negative yardage in the entire second half well into the fourth quarter. That’s simply unacceptable.

Truth be told, the offensive line was a mess too. They didn’t play a good game. But in my opinion, this offense is just too limited with Wilson at the helm. The Broncos are in no man’s land right now in the draft, but you would have to think they might try and be aggressive and get someone else in the mix.

I don’t see the Broncos going anywhere with Wilson leading the team. As I’ve said for weeks, Sean Payton is going to want to get a guy in that room he drafts as soon as possible. That time is now in the 2024 NFL Draft. Your mileage may vary, but quarterback tops the list of needs for the team to me. There’s no doubt about it.

Christian Barmore was a problem

In my Scouting the Enemy piece this week, I gave praise to versatile defensive lineman Christian Barmore. If there was any defender the Broncos needed to key in on and keep at bay—it was certainly him.

He was a one-man wrecking crew and had eight tackles and three sacks tonight. He was a big difference maker in the game and caused the Broncos offensive line all sorts of problems throughout the game. Hats off to him. The Patriots wouldn’t have won it without him.

Questionable Play-Calling by Sean Payton

End of the game time outs, weird play calls, and an undisciplined effort by the team as a whole fall on the shoulders of Sean Payton. I thought he called an awful game for the most part and several questionable decisions ended up backfiring for the Broncos.

Denver’s postseason hopes are over and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered moving forward. It’ll be interesting to see how Sean Payton handles the adversity the next few weeks. He has a lot of work to do to get this team in the right direction. Just remember the Broncos traded a first and second-round pick for him and gave him an $18 million dollar contract.

We’ll just have to wait and see if that was the right call a few years down the road.