Broncos hardly look like playoff material after latest debacle
DENVER ” The 97-yard kickoff return. The 99-yard touchdown drive. The 100 yards in penalties.
It’s safe to say the sloppy, dispirited Denver Broncos have more to worry about than just Jake Plummer’s middle finger this week, after a 45-17 loss to Kansas City that made them look like anything but a playoff contender.
It was an embarrassing comedown for a team that acted with arrogance all last week ” the coach defending the quarterback, the owner defending them both and the entire organization in denial about the notion that both Plummer and Mike Shanahan might need to move on.
On Sunday, though, and for the past month or so, this has looked very much like a team in need of some changes. Of Denver’s eight wins this season, only one ” against the Chargers in September ” has come against an opponent that currently has a winning record.
Teams are supposed to peak in November and December, but the Broncos are playing losing football. They’re 1-3 since Nov. 28, and only a late field goal against the woeful Dolphins kept it from possibly being 0-4.
Their latest performance ” in a game in which they had everything to play for and no reason to be flat ” was a debacle literally from the opening kickoff, which Dante Hall returned 97 yards for a score.
The Broncos took the day off Monday (some say they did Sunday, too) and weren’t available for comment. They acknowledged their miserableness after the game.
“It was a ridiculous day,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “I can’t believe we let this happen to us.”
The most ridiculous twist is that despite the loss, Denver remained very much in the playoff picture. The Broncos (8-6) are tied with Baltimore, Jacksonville and Buffalo for the final AFC wildcard spot. They play at Tennessee (4-10) on Saturday, then close at home against the Colts.
“Now, we just play ball,” linebacker Al Wilson said. “Don’t worry about the playoffs or whatever. Just play ball. Whatever comes out of it comes out of it.”
Regardless of what the standings say, this team did not resemble playoff material Sunday.
Besides Hall’s 97-yard kickoff return, Denver gave up:
“100 yards on 10 penalties, many of which short-circuited drives in which they were moving the ball well.
“A pair of long touchdown drives, one of 90 yards, the other 99.
“Two more interceptions and a fumble while the defense didn’t create a turnover. Denver is now minus-10 in turnover differential for the season. Plummer has thrown nine interceptions and two touchdown passes over the last four weeks.
“It was a pretty disappointing day. A bad day,” said Plummer, the most notable but hardly the only scapegoat in Denver’s late-season collapse.
After a 31-3 win over Oakland on Oct. 17, the Broncos were at 5-1 with a 3-0 record in the division. They were playing great and looked like a good bet to win the AFC West and maybe even their first playoff game since the 1998 Super Bowl.
They have gone 3-5 since and looked bad doing it. They gave up 40-plus points to Kansas City and Atlanta, blew an 11-point lead in the last six minutes at home against Oakland, threw away a chance to win at San Diego and got embarrassed on Monday Night Football against Cincinnati.
“I thought we would have played with a little more urgency,” veteran safety John Lynch said of the latest debacle. “We didn’t.”
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