Sunday, January 3, 2010

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #16 - vs Chiefs

Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs put the final embarrassing nail in the Broncos season this afternoon.

As the curtain closes on the 2009 Broncos season, one thing is abundantly clear. The aberration was the 6-0 start, not the 2-8 finish. The Broncos finish the season at 8-8, but in truth they are much closer to the 5-11 teams of the world than they are the 11-5 teams. This horrible loss also completed something that doesn't happen often in the NFL. The Broncos won all their divisional road games, and lost all their divisional home games...Seriously, how often does something like that go down in the NFL??

The crowd thinned out some towards the end of the 4th quarter.

The final chapter of this year was an embarrassing thud of a game against a team that had previously only managed to win three times in the other 15 games of the season, and never as convincingly and easily as they managed on the Field-Turf of Invesco Field this afternoon. One thing I didn't think possible was that the best player on the field played for Kansas City...Jamaal Charles may just be the real deal for the Chiefs. Definitely he looked ridiculously dynamic for them this afternoon.

One of three interceptions thrown by Orton...and the only one not returned for a touchdown.

The fact that the Broncos managed to hang in this game for as long as they did spoke more to the low level of the Chiefs than anything the Broncos were doing. The fact that it ended up being a 20 point blowout was justice, as the Broncos played with all the enthusiasm and excitement as cottage cheese. The final scoreboard read 44-24, but it easily could have been a thirty or forty point drubbing at the hands of a real team. Perhaps mercifully, the Broncos were kept out of the playoffs, as if they had headed to New England or Baltimore next weekend, the resulting carnage would have been beyond embarrassing.

Positives: (Not that there were many)

Gaffney had a monster game, sadly no one else in blue matched him.

Jabar Gaffney: In a game full of non-efforts...Jabar was amazing. His 14 catch 213 yard effort was partly the result of there being no other credible NFL receivers suited up for Denver, and in large part due to the tendency of Kyle Orton to lock onto one receiver and just keep on going to the well. It probably goes without saying that if Jabar Gaffney is your best player on a given day...the odds of you not winning are off of the charts, but I don't want to rip Gaffney for being one of the few Broncos on the field who looked like he gave a crap. Good job, Jabar.

Brandon Lloyd: For a guy who was only playing in his second game of the season, Lloyd sure made some big plays, hauling in four passes for a very solid 95 yards. It helps that the KC secondary is atrocious, but still...not bad for a guy who had only been in uniform with the Broncos for 8 days, and therefore hadn't picked up the stink of failure just yet.

I don't agree with the calls for McDaniels head, but I understand the sentiment.

Mitch Berger: I know for a long time I was pinning the whole collapse of the Broncos on Berger, as the curse of Brett Kern ravaged the Broncos. I still don't think they should have dropped Kern from the roster on the bye week after going 6-0, but Mitch played a pretty solid game. Averaging over 40 yards a kick, and pinning the Chiefs inside their 20 on three different occasions. I couldn't in good conscience rip the punter today, and really, he was the second best Bronco in uniform today. So sad.


The Broncos defense made Jamaal Charles look like Barry Sanders in his prime.

The run defense: Okay, allegedly the Broncos were trying to stop Jamaal Charles and the KC running offense, but I'm going to go ahead and say they weren't trying very hard. Charles had 259 yards rushing on only 25 carries, for an unholy 10.4 average yards per carry. When your running back is averaging enough yards to pick up a first down every carry, there is barely even a reason to throw the ball. All in all, the Broncos were outrushed 317 yards to 84, which is the reason that they lost.

Knowshon continued his late season slide into mediocrity Sunday versus KC.

The run offense: If we're going to spend a first round pick on a running back, it would be nice if he looked better than some bum you can pick up on the waiver wire. For the past month or two, Knowshon has been exceptionally ordinary.

The likable, but limited Kyle Orton goes down.

Kyle Orton: I like Kyle, but he is ridiculously limited. He'll never be able to put a team on his back and lead them to victory. He has an alarming tendency to lock on to one receiver and pretty much ignore everyone else.

Orton will be seeing Derrick Johnson in his nightmares...Johnson had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Although Kyle doesn't throw a ton of interceptions, late in this season, he was throwing far too many to make up for the rest of his limitations. Tossing 3 today was another big reason that the Broncos lost.

Josh was the toast of the town at 6-0, at 8-8...not so much.

Josh McDaniels: Earlier in the season, his play calling seemed dynamic and unpredictable...during the latest four game losing streak, nothing he called worked, he abandoned the running game entirely (not that I don't understand that a little, the O-Line has ceased opening holes), and his arrogance which when the Broncos were winning was tolerable is now less so.

With Scheffler and Marshall inactive by coach's decision, the less sure handed Daniel Graham was out there trying to make plays.

His bizarre move to alienate the best player on the team (Brandon Marshall) and their best tight end (Tony Scheffler) a few days before the season ended left the Broncos painfully short on pass catchers. We were left with Brandon Stokley, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd and the blocking tight end Daniel Graham as the biggest threats. The Chiefs weren't overly worried, obviously. Now it appears that the Broncos will probably part ways with Marshall, and the talent cupboard is looking pretty bare.

Bronco Country has turned on Josh McDaniels.

The good feelings that were flowing so freely earlier in the season have now morphed into a nasty taste in the mouths of Bronco fans. He's back to looking not so good, which tends to be the default offseason mode for McDaniels...and hey look, today starts the offseason.

Final Thought:

A season that started out promisingly has dissolved into yet another middling finish for the Broncos. Since going 13-3 in 2005, the franchise has played .500 ball over the past four years. The Broncos records over the past four years...9-7, 7-9, 8-8, 8-8. This lukewarm, middle of the road football is not too much fun. It feels like Denver is about to bottom out for about three years or so and actually really suck for the first time in a long time, and that this 8-8 season did nothing but delay the rebuilding by a year. Of course, this is the NFL, where things can change quickly, but the vibe in Denver is far from positive.

Let us know completely lose perspective, though. I did predict a 3-13 season for Denver, and to be fair to the boys, they raised our hopes with the fast start, but finishing 5 games over what we expected is an accomplishment not to be sneezed at. There is still a lot of work to do, and that work starts now. The Broncos have to figure out how to run the ball effectively and stop their opponents from running the ball. They need a punter, and it appears that they will soon need some wide receivers. Oh, and they need a real NFL quarterback. Orton is a fine stop-gap for a year or two, but he cannot possibly be the long term solution if the goal is to become a viable contender for a championship.

Let us wash out our mouths of the taste of this horrible ending, and remember that the offseason is where dreams can be built. This post ends our Broncos game coverage until August, but I remain a Broncos fan. Through thick or thin...or though just being a very average team...Go Broncos!

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