By Dave Thomas
For the Denver Broncos, the season of horror is over.
After losing Sunday at home 27-24 to the rival Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos saw their 2017 campaign end at 5-11. Yes, this was nothing short of a major disappointment.
Only two years removed from their third Super Bowl title, the Broncos took it on the chin in more ways than one this season. Most notably, the troubles at the quarterback position proved too much to overcome. In the end, it could cost first-year head coach Vance Joseph his job.
With Kansas City already locked into the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs, the Chiefs had little to play for on this last Sunday in December. However, the Chiefs showed to be more than competitive in sending the Broncos home until next season.
With the jury still out on who will be under center next season for Denver, the Broncos went with young project Paxton Lynch. For the day, Lynch went 21-of-31 for 254 yards to go with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. Most impressive for Denver, they did not quit when behind in the fourth quarter. The Broncos tallied 14 points in the final stanza, with Zaire Anderson adding a 38-yard fumble return to go with one of Lynch’s two TD passes. Through the air, Demaryius Thomas and De’Angelo Henderson caught touchdowns. On the ground, Denver was not terribly efficient. C.J. Anderson led the home team with 61 yards on 18 carries.
Going up against a first-year quarterback, one might have thought Denver’s well-known defense would have pretty solid control of the game. Yet Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes was 22-of-35 for 281 yards and one interception. The Chiefs did their best work on the ground, this despite not having a runner go for more than 40 yards on the day. Both Anthony Sherman and Kareem Hunt scored touchdowns for Kansas City. For Denver, Zaire Anderson’s fumble recovery for a touchdown highlighted the team’s defensive efforts. Teammates DeMarcus Walker and Shelby Harris each recorded a sack, with Dymonte Thomas leading the Broncos with six total tackles. Last, Darian Stewart had an interception for the home team.
Special Teams: C
One of the highlights for the Broncos on Sunday was kicker Brandon McManus hitting on all three extra points attempts, along with adding a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter. Riley Dixon punted four times for a rather paltry 39.3 yard average.
Black Monday got an early start on Sunday. Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano was the first to be fired, and Oakland’s Jack Del Rio was dismissed following his team’s loss to Los Angeles. Now the rumor mill is swirling regarding Joseph. While the first-year head coach can’t play quarterback, the team’s inefficiency at the most important position on the field could lead to his demise. When you have one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league in John Elway as your team’s general manager, much is expected of your club. That is even truer when it comes to the quarterback position. As Denver’s trio of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Lynch showed this season, the Broncos are far removed from the successful days of Peyton Manning. As such, Joseph could prove to be the fall guy.
Denver can only look back on this season with a lot of head scratching. Before the 2018 season kicks off, the team will have to solidify the quarterback position. As the 2017 campaign showed, this team is going nowhere with its current setup under center. Among the home opponents in 2018 for the Broncos (not counting division rivals), Denver will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Denver will visit Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Arizona, among others.