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The Broncos lost sight of their formula... and it cost them the game

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 2, 2018

DENVER — The Denver Broncos had the Kansas City Chiefs right where they wanted them.

With 12:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos had a 23-13 lead on the hottest team in the league, in a shaking stadium full of Orange & Blue, a mile above sea level.

Not only did the men decked out in their alternate blue uniforms have a double-digit lead on their division rival, they had their winning formula on a golden platter in front of them to take the lead in the AFC West.

All they had to do was play to their self-identified strengths.

But it all came crashing down in the hands of the “great ”Patrick Mahomes, as Von Miller identified him multiple times after the game,

Since head coach Vance Joseph took over the team in 2017, a winning formula had been welded to this team’s identity.

That formula was to run the ball, get the lead to let the defense pin their ears back on the opposing quarterback and flip the field with their punter.

In the final 12:47 seconds, all three phases let them down.

It began with their star-studded defense.

After holding the league’s best offense to 26 points less than their average of 39 points per game, the train came off the tracks of Joe Woods’ unit with 12:47 left in the game.

Up until that moment, Denver held the Chiefs to 277 net yards of offense, two field goals and a touchdown in the first three quarters.

However, outside a kneel down to end the game, the Chiefs went a perfect two-for-two on touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, accumulating 169 yards of offense and more than doubling their passing yards, going for 153 yards through the air.

It was the Chiefs’ second touchdown drive of the quarter, the one that ended up being the game-winner, that will haunt Denver.

“2nd-and-30, I’m thinking like, ‘There ain’t no way they’d be able to get this.’ And then they did,” Miller said in disbelief after the 27-23 loss.

“I’m thinking, ‘This is what we live for,’ especially me. We just weren’t able to — especially when they had two penalties and were 2nd-and-what, 30? We’ve just got to get them off the field. We just weren’t able to do that.”

When it mattered the most, the defense that’s been called on so many times to step up just wasn’t able to make the necessary plays.

But that was only part of the much-talked-about winning formula that fell apart.

Through the first three games, Denver’s had one of the best running games in the league, putting up an average of 144.6 yards per game.

That didn’t let them down on Monday night, either.

Up until 12:47 left in the game, the Broncos had 159 rushing yards on an inconceivable 7.57 yards-per-carry average.

The young guns, Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, were getting it done in front of the entire country, to say the least.

“Our offensive line has been really good all year. Both young backs ran downhill — they had 70 yards a piece. They ran downhill,” Joseph said, before explaining why the Broncos nearly abandoned the run in the fourth quarter.

“But you score points by throwing the football. We ran the ball to control the game, and you throw the ball to score. So that’s never going to stop.”

In the final two possessions — one when the team had the lead and the second when they were down four points with 1:39 left — Denver ran the ball a total of one time.

Even though the Broncos finished the game averaging more yards per carry (7.2) than yards per pass (6.1), Bill Musgrave’s unit nearly completely abandoned not only their winning formula, but the heart and soul of their offensive success on Monday night.

“We ran the ball well. We started off so many series just pounding the rock at 2nd-and-1, 1st-and-10,” Case Keenum said, explaining how the team found success. “We’ve got to keep running the ball well. If we keep running the ball like we do we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Monday night could have been one of those games from the way they had ran the ball the first 47:13 of the game.

But, once again, that wasn’t the end of where the team’s winning formula let them down.

After the Broncos three-and-out in the fourth quarter, they called upon their highly-anticipated offseason pickup Marquette King to send a punt into orbit in the mile-high air.

Nearly the opposite happened, as King chipped a punt a total of 35 yards.

“They played good defense there, we went three-and-out, had an OK punt — it wasn’t a great punt — we gave them the ball at half the field, they made some plays,” Joesph said, emphasizing the disappointing punt.

Eight plays, 60 yards and 2:56 later, the Chiefs took the lead and never looked back.

Due to all of this, Monday night was the first time the Broncos lost at home when leading by at least a touchdown in the fourth quarter since Oct. 17, 2010, against the New York Jets.

“We were up by 10 and let them score 14 straight,” Miller said frustrated and lost after the game.

Much how the first two wins of the season were “team wins,” Monday night’s game was just that.

The only difference is it was their winning formula that let them down.

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