Yet another devastating loss for the Denver Broncos in prime time. The final score this past Sunday night was 41-16 in Sports Authority Field. Losing to the New England Patriots doesn’t seem all that bad considering how tough it is to take down the franchise dynasty of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, except for Denver this is the fifth loss in a row. Eyebrows are being raised as Denver, a team that was once considered to be a Super Bowl candidate this season, is now falling in to a pit that looks impossible for the team to climb out of. It begs the question for any Bronco fan out there right now: what exactly is going wrong?
Looking back in previous weeks the Denver Broncos started off the season strong. They got the win against the divisional rival Los Angeles Chargers in week one, then followed it by completely stomping the Dallas Cowboys with a 42-17 victory. Trevor Siemian had the best game of his career thus far, and the Broncos showed their top-notch rush defense by halting Ezekiel Elliot to a mere 9 yards total. At only week two of the regular season, rumors began to float that Denver might be the team to potentially go all the way with all things clicking the way they were. In week three, however, the rumors became a little puzzled as the Broncos chalked up a loss to the Buffalo Bills. In week four Denver beat the Oakland Raiders 16-10, which allowed them to go 2-0 among the division, and then followed up that win with surprising loss to the New York Giants. In fact, the only win that the Giants have been able to muster yet this season was against the Broncos. Ever since then, Denver has been skunked by the Chargers, beat down by the Chiefs, embarrassed by the Eagles, and was shown no mercy at the hands of the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. What happened to the team who was able to put up 40 points on the Dallas Cowboys? Or better yet, who is to blame for this mess?
It seems pretty easy to put blame on the quarterback play right now in Denver. Trevor Siemian got benched, only to be replaced by Brock Osweiler, who hasn’t exactly proven himself worthy as a starting QB either. Denver is averaging 15.6 points per game in the past five weeks. While that’s not absurdly low, it’s definitely not great coming after the Peyton Manning era. Special teams hasn’t been spectacular either, as Denver allowed the New England Patriots to score 17 points generating from a muffed punt, a blocked field goal, and allowing 103 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With the offense struggling to get points on the board, along with a miserable special teams unit, Denver must rely on its defense to take charge and make the big plays to help out with field position. They have had a dominant rushing defense, stopping big play makers such as Zeke, LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon, and Kareem Hunt. Despite the impressive lock down in the run game, it appears that the No Fly Zone has departed and allowed teams to score with their deep pass threat. The past two weeks have been miserable for the rush defense as players such as Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Dion Lewis, and James White have all carved them up like turkeys.
The defense has become as unreliable as the offense now, and whether the team misses a play maker such as Manning, or a coordinator like Wade Phillips, it appears as though the blame has come down to John Elway. The same general manager who was praised for putting all the right pieces together to bring home the Lombardi Trophy in 2015 is now being heavily criticized for allowing such a pathetic season to unfold. Surely the two time winning Super Bowl MVP should be able to collaborate a better quarterback situation than a mediocre Trevor Siemian, and a Cleveland-bought Brock Osweiler. It may be quick to forget that the GM does not have the same job as coaching, but he does run the numbers in order to draft and acquire the right people in free agency. Perhaps it only shows proof that generating a winning team at a professional level in the NFL is much more difficult than anticipated. For John Elway this may create a lot of questions on what to do during this next off season. It will be interesting to see whether he decides to start from scratch and try to build a brand new team from the ground up, or if he continues going forward with his current team with some slight adjustments. Either way, something big needs to change in Denver for them to become relevant again. At 3-6 not only are the Broncos going to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, but they’re also on the very bottom of the division. Rebuild mode might not seem like such a bad option after all.