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With their season on the brink, the Broncos fall short

Andre Simone Avatar
December 16, 2018

With injuries mounting throughout Saturday night’s primetime matchup, the Denver Broncos ‘D’ came up with big plays in key moments, but ultimately, it was a Cleveland Browns sack that sealed a crushing 17-16 home defeat.

Mathematically still alive for a playoff spot in the AFC, the Orange & Blue will need a lot of help after their first loss to the Browns since 1990, suffering a devastating home defeat to a young team that had only won one road game all season.

In a defensive struggle, the first half saw the Broncos play ugly football out the gate, as Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield uncorked a long bomb to Breshard Perriman that flew over the outstretched arms of Tremaine Brock to give Cleveland the early 7-0 lead.

While Cleveland found their opening score on third-and-long, the Broncos couldn’t do anything on offense, starting the night with two consecutive three-and-outs in which they totaled -12 yards.

Denver got going soon afterward, with a 13-play drive that Case Keenum capped off with a scrambling touchdown in the red zone. After trading second-quarter picks to end the half, the teams entered the locker room tied up at 10 in a sloppy affair.

Denver found a way to get back the momentum to start the second half with a vital Adam Gotsis strip sack, putting to rest a nine-minute drive that had the Broncos ‘D’ on their heels. Alas, the offense could only respond with a field goal and threw an interception on the very next drive, loosening their grasp on their three-point lead.

That lead lasted just under five minutes before Mayfield struck again with great field position thanks to Keenum’s interception, capping off a six-play drive to Antonio Callaway on a slant in the end zone where Justin Simmons couldn’t make a play on the ball.

Despite Phillip Lindsay and the running game getting shut down, on the ensuing drive, Denver’s offense found a way on short throws that turned into nice gains thanks to their feisty cast of young receivers. Their drive stalled at the Cleveland six-yard line, though, as Lindsay was stopped on 3rd-and-1.

This is where the game took a turn, as head coach Vance Joseph—who’s been scrutinized to no end for his game management decisions late in games—decided to kick a field goal down four points with less than five minutes reaming, rather than go for it on 4th-and-1.

Down 17-16 the bend-don’t-break Broncos defense, which was without just about every corner that had dressed for the game at this point, let the Browns run game drive to within field goal range only to come up with a huge 4th-and-1 stop, as Gotsis once again game up big, beating the left tackle off his inside shoulder to get a tackle for a loss, keeping Denver’s hopes alive.

Everything seemed poised for another Keenum late drive to get the Broncos into field goal range, but the QB fell just short as the aggressive Browns defense brought a blitz on 4th-and-10 with Denver at midfield, and Jabrill Peppers broke through for an unblocked sack, ending the game for good.


Adam Gotsis had a clutch performance, coming up with the Broncos two biggest plays and keeping the team alive time and time again. The big defensive end played stout against the run and was second to only Justin Simmons in tackles with six.


The Broncos had the game on the line with Gregg Williams putting his offense on the field on 4th-and-1, rather than kicking a field goal that would’ve extended their lead back to four.

Gotsis seemingly jumped offsides, the type of mistake that with 1:49 left and no timeouts meant certain defeat for the Broncos. Only Williams called a timeout, saving Denver and allowing Gotsis a second chance which he made full use of, bursting up the middle and coming through with a strong tackle to take down Nick Chubb for a two-yard loss.


“Yeah. I felt confident” —Case Keenum on if he wanted Vance Joseph to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal.


98 — Von Miller’s franchise sack record came on a third-down takedown of Mayfield when the Broncos needed it most with Bradley Roby and Jamar Taylor out.

32 to 134 — When the Broncos can’t run the ball they lose, a trend that continued as they got out-gained on the ground by 102 yards.

4-and-6 — Denver’s record in one-possession games this season. They’re 3-and-3 in games decided by three points or less.


The Broncos go to Oakland for likely the last time to face the lowly 3-10 Raiders.


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