Losing in the NFL is never fun.
It can be infuriating or deflating. Fluky or usual. Expensive or, in rare circumstances, virtually unimportant.
But it’s never fun.
The Broncos, remarkably, hit all of those descriptors and more between a Monday night slump in Seattle and, three months later, Sunday’s 34-28 home loss to the Chiefs – the 14th in a row against their bitter rivals. AFC West.
Most of the time, though, the hallmark of this Denver team is that their offense has spent most of the season daring people to do something else with their Sundays by being boring.
The 73,389 at Empower Field on Sunday afternoon in 62 degrees suffered no such boredom, although they probably spent most of the first half wondering if they were on point. to witness a beating at the hands of Kansas City Maestro Patrick Mahomes.
Instead, the Broncos rode a furious 27-0 rally at arm’s length to end a 13-game losing streak against their division nemesis. Three interceptions of Mahomes’ passes and three catches by wide receiver Jerry Jeudy took Broncos Country on its first real rollercoaster of the season.
The orange-and-blue-clad faithful booed mercilessly in the first half, roared and chanted in the third quarter, then booed again before Kansas City finished its breakout job.
All that to say this: for the first time in a long time, Denver played an exciting and honest game of football. But for the fifth straight week and the 10th time in 13 outings, Denver lost.
“The goal is to win. We all know that,” Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “But to watch those guys when you’re down 27-0, everyone had a choice of how they wanted to continue this game. I’m so impressed with all these guys – defense, offense, special teams. They didn’t blink, they stayed together. … It’s great, it was great, but we have to finish. We had chances to win. »
What to do beyond that? In the cold reality of the NFL, all losses are equal. And yet, consider where the game seemed to be heading when Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay leapt into the air, tipped a pass from Wilson, twisted his body to carry it, cocked Wilson on the ground and ran 47 yards to the end zone. With 4:32 remaining in the first half, Kansas City led 27-0, then stuffed the Broncos offense again and looked like they were going to snag the first ornament of humiliation on Denver’s tree of despair in 2022. .
Instead, linebacker Josey Jewell recorded the first of his two interceptions, which sparked a rally. The Broncos scored three touchdowns in 3:32 ending the half and starting the third quarter. But they did not come closer to 6 points.
Would the feeling in the building Monday morning have been the same if the Broncos had folded the tent rather than rallied? It’s hard to imagine it not making a difference, even if no one in the post-match dressing room wanted to admit it.
“Congratulations guys on the fight, but an ‘L’ is an ‘L’,” said defensive lineman DJ Jones.
“Everyone could see we weren’t giving up,” said center Graham Glasgow, struggling to categorize the outing properly. “But saying ‘nobody’s stopping’ is, like, a very – that’s fine, but at the same time it’s not either. We were way behind, we came back and we just didn’t won.
Is Wilson’s efficiency improvement over the past four weeks — he’s completed 67% of his passes since quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak returned to play — enough to be optimistic? Will Denver and Wilson learn something more about each other on the court this season?
He was knocked out of the game early in the fourth quarter with a concussion after completing 23 of 36 passes for 247 yards, rushing for 57 more and recording his first game with three passing touchdowns as a Bronco. He will have to clear NFL protocol regarding concussions before he is allowed to play.
Does the fact that the Broncos rallied in the first place say anything substantial about Hackett’s ability to keep the locker room together during a poor first season as head coach? Does that say anything about his chances of being back for a 2 year?
“We are all here to win football matches. We are all here to work together and grow together,” Hackett said. “There’s been a lot of adversity this year and it’s your choice: you get angry at the adversity or you use it to grow. As a team, we need to grow so that wherever it happens, we we can build on that. … It’s not just about a year. It’s about continuous years where you want to become great and keep working.
“For us, we have to keep working and keep developing.”
The job in the NFL is to work and grow, sure, but the deliverable is winning and Denver hasn’t done much of that. Sunday brought the same against a franchise that has beaten the mint Broncos for the past six years.
This version looked different and felt different and maybe by the time the season ends against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 18 it will mean something different, but for now the lesson is the same: the silver linings in this league don’t pay the bills.
An era of agony
With Sunday’s 34-28 loss to Kansas City, the Broncos have now lost 14 straight games to the Chiefs since 2015. That mark ties the team’s 14-game slippage against the Oakland Raiders in the late 1980s. 1960s and early 1970s for the longest losing streak. against only one opponent in franchise history. Here’s a look at the Broncos’ five longest such streaks:
|Opponent||Losses||Series dates||Avg. margin|
|Chiefs||14||November 15, 2015 – present||-11.9|
|Raiders||14||November 21, 1965 – December 19, 1971||-16.1|
|Chiefs||11||November 1, 1964 – November 27, 1969||-21.8|
|Invoices||9||October 28, 1962 – October 8, 1967||-10.9|
|Chiefs||8||October 30, 1960 – December 8, 1963||-22.0|