Eric Studesville's chances of having the interim tag removed from his newly-minted head-coaching title dissipated with Denver's latest disastrous showing in Arizona.
Studesville likely would have had to win out to even be considered for the position vacated by Josh McDaniels, who was fired Dec. 6.
But instead of the Broncos responding to the new coach, they turned the ball over six times - a single-game high since 1999. They struggled with their passing game, watched as Cardinals kicker Jay Feely scored his team's first 22 points - including a touchdown off a field-goal fake and wilted against the run.
Particularly disappointing for Denver was the second straight clunker from quarterback Kyle Orton. He was 19 for 41 for 166 yards and a season-high three interceptions one week after the Broncos failed to score a touchdown Kansas City.
Orton suffered injured ribs on his left side in the second half but it's clear that he doesn't want to open the door for rookie Tim Tebow, whose insertion into the lineup will be a hot topic this week with a game in Oakland pending.
"As long as my teammates are out there, I'm going to be out there fighting with them," said Orton, who appeared to be wearing a flak jacket after originally injuring the ribs in London against San Francisco.
"If that means getting your butt kicked, then that means I'm getting my butt kicked with them."
Orton added the ribs were "not an issue."
What is germane is that Denver's worst loss of the season came against Oakland at home, 59-14, and with a trip to the Black Hole looming, it doesn't appear that the timing is ripe for the Broncos to make a quarterback change at this moment.
Studesville said there was no hesitancy putting in Tebow on Sunday and "if we needed to we would have" played him. But, he admitted, the position will be scrutinized along with everything else "top to bottom."
"I'm not going to make that decision right now," he said. "I want to look at this and talk to the coaches and make sure what we're doing is best for us and where we're going."
That's the easy part to decipher: Denver is heading towards a likely top-five draft pick and a busy few weeks and months in a likely reconstituted front office with John Elway playing a role.
TRENDING: The Broncos had featured a pass-run ratio of about 65 percent to 35 percent under McDaniels. The rushing output rose slightly to 42 percent under new play-caller Mike McCoy, which may be the norm moving forward with a former running backs coach serving as interim head coach and Denver's passing game struggling.
BY THE NUMBERS: Denver allowed 211 rushing yards on 34 carries to an Arizona team that entered Sunday with a 4.3 per-attempt average but a ranking of 31st due to a lack of commitment to the running game. It was the third time an opponent has rushed for 200-plus yards. The worst effort was the Oct. 24 meeting vs. Oakland (328), which is next Sunday's opponent on the road.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--PK Matt Prater tried to practice Friday but his right groin injury was deemed severe enough that the team signed Steven Hauschka as his replacement. Prater will have no long-term worries, as Hauschka banged a 32-yard field-goal attempt off the upright and missed a 40-yarder wide right.
--The price keeps on rising for CB Champ Bailey as he prepares to hit free agency. One week after shadowing the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe and holding the league's hottest receiver at the time without a catch, Bailey swatted away two deep passes to Larry Fitzgerald, including a beautiful over-the-shoulder bat away off a double-reverse pass.
--S Kyle McCarthy, who has been a part of Denver's dime package with Brian Dawkins out with a knee injury, injured his own knee and didn't return Sunday. Denver deactivated S Darcel McBath (thigh) despite his practicing in limited fashion all week, leaving the Broncos considerably thin on the back end of the defense.
-- CB Perrish Cox did not start, just three days after his arrest for sexual assault but played extensively. The team issued a statement saying that Cox's near-term future will be decided by the NFL's personal conduct policy but that it levied the maximum possible fine for missing practice and meetings Friday.
--CB Andre Goodman missed eight games this season with quadriceps and hip issues but started and finished Sunday. The key will be Monday. The last time Goodman tried to play he aggravated the injury and missed the next four games despite the bye the following week.
--WR Brandon Lloyd's magical comeback season has hit a speed bump, as teams concentrate on taking away Denver's outside receivers by dropping defenders deep and blitzing Orton with regularity. Lloyd has just five catches for 63 yards over the last two games, despite being targeted 17 times.
Broncos Update Community Forums