This was easily the most demoralizing loss of the season as the Denver Broncos failed to get back into the AFC West conversation with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Broncos defense had looked immaculate to this point, and the offense was playing complementary football. The game was being played in Denver, and to give more hope, the Chiefs lost MVP QB Patrick Mahomes to a freak knee injury on a fourth-and-one quarterback sneak in the second quarter. But it was to no avail, as the Broncos laid and egg and got exposed against Kansas City.
Coming into this game, the Chiefs had one of the worst defenses in the league, and the Broncos offense had really only played against good defenses up to this point in the season. From a fan’s perspective, this was a chance for the defense to play their best with low expectations against the top offense in football, and the offense had a chance to win a game for them.
Once the game started, everything actually appeared to go as expected with the Broncos driving the length of the field, with some penalty help from the Chiefs on third downs, and scored an opening drive touchdown to Royce Freeman. That would literally go down as the only successful offensive drive the team would put together for the rest of the game.
The Broncos surrendered nine sacks for a net of minus-79 yards, went 1/13 on third downs a second consecutive week, gave up a fumble recovery for a touchdown, had a failed two-point conversion, missed a field goal, and outside of Courtland Sutton, everyone on offense appeared to give up on this game.
The running backs ran a pedestrian 21 times for 71 yards, for a 3.4 yards per carry average against the worst run defense in the league. The team attempted one of the worst fake punts in recent memory, resulting in Colby Wadman getting sacked for negative seven yards with nowhere to run or throw the ball.
On almost every Colby Wadman punt, the announcers claimed it was short. That ended up being accurate because Wadman punted seven times for a poor 40-yard average, in Denver’s thin air, and only landed one punt inside the Chiefs 20-yard line. Special teams were a complete failure, surrendering a 35-yard punt return, missing a field goal, and their punting being atrocious.
With offense scoring six points and handing the opponent seven points on a fumble recovery for a touchdown, the defense could have posted another shutout and it wouldn’t have resulted in a victory. However, the unit isn’t clear of criticism. The defense gave up two long scoring drives to a backup quarterback that was out of football at the beginning of the regular season.
They didn’t record a sack until late in the fourth quarter. They didn’t record a turnover at all. Von Miller didn’t even show up on the stat sheet as the highest-paid player on the team. The offense didn’t play well enough to win a game no matter what, but the defense needs to make plays to give the offense a better chance at getting points on the board.
A bright spot on the defense was that Justin Simmons was making plays all over the field, making big hits, stopping possible breakaway plays, making plays in the running game at the line of scrimmage, and breaking up two passes.
The final piece of criticism saved the best for last, as Joe Flacco and the offensive line displayed the most pathetic combination of skills the Broncos have put on the football field in a long time. Flacco again threw for just around 200 yards for the third straight game, against one of the worst defenses in the league, that was missing one of its best players in Chris Jones.
He was sacked eight times, fumbled three times, fortunately only losing one. The offensive line seemingly allowed one free rusher every series, and Flacco wasn’t able to extend any plays. Flacco showed again that he is the most immobile quarterback in the NFL, his pocket awareness is extremely limited, his ability to improvise is almost non-existent, and last night apparently regressed on his ability to hit check down routes or throw the ball away.
Joe Flacco ended the game with a Quarterback Rating of 8.3, threw 34 times for 213 yards without a touchdown or an interception. The offensive line surrendered nine sacks (quite a few of them were the quarterback’s fault) and had three holding calls. After three straight weeks of Garrett Bolles showing up and playing solid football at left tackle, he regressed yesterday, surrendering a strip-sack and having two more holding calls, making his season total eight holds in seven games.
Next up, the Broncos play the Indianapolis Colts in Indy next Sunday. The Colts have looked really good despite being 3-2, and this game could turn ugly if the Broncos trot the same effort, energy, and execution they did against the Chiefs onto the field.
The positive side of Flacco looking terrible is that Drew Lock comes off of IR after next week and can start practicing with the team. The hope is that Lock will take over at quarterback Week 9, and end the season showcasing his ability so that the Broncos can game plan for the 2020 NFL draft with more clarity.