ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – After every victory, a new photo collage of highlights greets the Denver Broncos in the hallway leading to their locker room.
They’re sick of seeing the same pictures.
The Broncos have lost seven straight games since their 16-10 win over the Raiders on Oct. 1, their longest losing streak in half a century.
“I don’t think you need any reminders of how tough it’s been,” quarterback Trevor Siemian said as he prepared to resume his role as the starter Sunday when the bawling and brawling Broncos (3-8) visit the Miami Dolphins (4-7), losers of five straight themselves.
During their skid, the Broncos have led for less than seven minutes and trailed for nearly 192.
After Siemian was benched for Brock Osweiler a month ago, the Broncos held a 3-0 lead in a 51-23 loss at Philadelphia and a 7-6 lead in a 20-17 loss to Cincinnati, after which running back C.J. Anderson cried at his locker over a pivotal fourth-quarter fumble.
Rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie sobbed at his locker last week after he got into a scuffle with Chris Harris Jr., one of two tussles that marred Denver’s Thanksgiving Day practice.
And Paxton Lynch’s 2017 debut in a 21-14 loss at Oakland on Sunday ended with him hobbling off the field and sobbing on the bench.
The Broncos trailed Oakland 21-0 at the time and Siemian led two touchdown drives to make a game of it. But he never got the chance to tie it up after Derek Carr completed a 54-yard pass just before the two-minute warning on third-and-8 with rookie Brendan Langley in coverage.
He was subbing for star cornerback Aqib Talib, who was ejected for fighting with receiver Michael Crabtree in the opening minutes, and was subsequently suspended for the upcoming game, as well, which will cost him his nearly $609,000 game check.
The Broncos will likely be without defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck) and nose tackle Domata Peko, who is in danger of missing his first game since 2009 because of a sprained left knee.
Coach Vance Joseph indicated Wolfe’s season could be finished: “His overall health is more important than our next five games.”
Lynch will miss two to four weeks with a high right ankle sprain. The Broncos fear that scuttles plans of seeing conclusively if he’s a bust or a late bloomer. Lynch has proven much more of a project than GM John Elway anticipated when he moved up to select the former Memphis star in the first round of the 2016 draft.
Lynch threw for just 41 yards. His eight drives produced 50 yards and ended with seven punts and an interception in the end zone on a cringe-worthy pass to tight end Virgil Green.
Despite those stats, Lynch declared afterward, “I thought I played pretty well,” and Elway said, “For the first start, I thought he did a nice job.”
Lynch hopped off the field late in the third quarter and sat alone on the bench in tears for much of the remainder of the game as Siemian drove Denver on a pair of touchdown drives after going three-and-out on his first series.
“If we got one more chance at it,” Siemian said, “who knows what happens?”
Siemian is getting one more chance at starting, and he’s eager to shake off his benching and get a win.
“When I got sat down, confidence-wise I felt fine,” Siemian said. “I think it’s just frustrating not playing is the big thing.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase didn’t sound too thrilled that the Broncos had gone back to Siemian. He said getting benched can do a QB a world of good when he returns to action with something to prove.
“Yeah, it really can, because you get a different perspective. You get to see somebody else operate the offense,” Gase said. “When I watch him, I love the way he throws the ball. It just seems like he doesn’t put a lot of effort in it. The ball comes out nice.
“When he’s got time in the pocket and guys are running and finding some windows there, he really spins it good. He can really cause some issues because when they run some of their deeper stuff, you just watch him over the last couple of years, he puts some balls in some tight windows. When he has time, he can cause a lot of problems.”
Gase, however, was glad he won’t have to deal with Talib.
“Having him out makes life a little easier,” Gase said.
Talib said on his weekly radio show on Altitude AM950 in Denver on Wednesday that Elway and Joseph were supportive of him during his appeal Tuesday to the NFL, which cut his original suspension in half.
“I’m not happy to miss a game at all,” said Talib, who can’t be at team headquarters until next week. “It’s still a significant amount of money and I still can’t play a game with my teammates.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)