(CBS Denver) — After beating the Cleveland Browns and reveling in it over the bye week, the Denver Broncos reverted to form last Sunday in Minnesota. The Broncos lost to the Vikings to drop to 3-7 and essentially dispel any remaining hope of making the playoffs.
It’s not just the losing that makes this Denver team so frustrating. Plenty of teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins have at least seven losses (and possibly worse squads). It’s losing very winnable games in excruciating fashion. The Broncos have lost five games by no more than a touchdown. Some of the those losses came on last-minute scores, and some came in games the Broncos controlled.
The latter, of course, is how the latest loss unfolded. As CBS4 sports anchor Michael Spencer describes it, the Broncos “had a tough loss against the Vikings on Sunday, blew a 20-point halftime lead.” The Broncos shut out the Vikings in the first half, with Brandon Allen tossing a touchdown pass and Andy Janovich banging in another from the goal line. They led 23-7 going into the fourth quarter. Then the Vikings stormed back with 20 points to get the win.
Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins deserves some credit for the turnaround. He ended the day 29-35 for 319 yards and three touchdowns. But the Broncos also had some bright spots. Courtland Sutton pulled down five catches for 113 yards, and even completed a pass for 38 yards. Shelby Harris sacked Cousins three times, and the Broncos run defense held Dalvin Cook to just 26 yards on 11 rushing attempts. Denver even gave themselves a chance to flip the script back at the end, but Allen’s three end zone passes fell incomplete in the game’s last seconds.
Maybe this particular failure can lead to a turnaround in Buffalo. As Spencer notes, the blown lead “…is really resonating in that locker room, as these guys try to figure out just what has gone wrong. It was actually the fourth fourth-quarter blown lead that the Broncos have had this season. That’s becoming an unfortunate trend for our guys here in Denver.”
The Broncos will look to assemble the pieces into a more complete game against the Buffalo Bills this week. But at least some of those pieces — a strong run defense, a fierce pass rush, some offensive firepower — actually exist. And should they find themselves lucky enough to hold a late lead, Vic Fangio and company need to learn how to sustain it and control the clock. Perhaps the answer is committing to the run, as NFL On CBS’ London Fletcher recently suggested.
The Bills, at 7-3, don’t offer much of a drop-off from the Vikings. But it should also be noted that Buffalo hasn’t beaten any teams with winning records, and they lost an ugly game to the Cleveland Browns a couple of weeks ago. Their rushing attack ranks among the NFL’s top 10, gaining 128.7 yards per game. But the passing attack behind Josh Allen is second tier, at best. The defense is stout against the run and especially the pass.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” according to Spencer. “But I really do think that it’s one that the Broncos will have a good shot at winning.