The Denver Broncos have been knocked down a peg. There is simply no other way to put it. They came away from a rough loss in Seattle at 2-1. Although they remain tied with the San Diego Chargers at 2-1 atop the AFC West, the general mood among the Broncos roster seemed to be one of discouragement. However, arguably, this loss could be the best thing to happen for Denver, and here’s why.
First and foremost, this was no 43-8 contest. Forget “35” – after the same 60 minutes, it was 0. This was a closer contest from the get-go. For the Broncos to take Seattle to overtime at CenturyLink Field, widely acknowledged as the most hostile home field environment in the NFL, is an accomplishment of a great scale.
The last team to defeat Seattle at home was Arizona on December 20, 2013, by the score of 17-10. Before that? San Francisco on December 24, 2011, 19-17. These were close contests, whereas the norm was not. The average score in CenturyLink last season was Seattle 27.9, opponent…14.2. The Broncos have to be encouraged by the fact that they took such a talented Seattle team to overtime in their own house.
However, the Broncos have obviously not played the Seahawks to the best of their abilities. They have not performed up to snuff. But it is apparent the impact that additions like T.J. Ward, Ryan Clady, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and so many others have had.
Take the run game, for instance. Between the Super Bowl and Sunday, the Broncos ran the ball 34 times for 63 yards, a 1.9 yard per carry average. Most of that can be attributed to the fact that Seattle’s defense is simply otherworldly against the run, but 1.9 ypc is unusually low. For comparison, Trent Richardson has averaged double that this season at 3.8, and Donald Brown (2.0) comes the closest of eligible RBs this season.
That the Broncos have underachieved in the run game is more a mark of the talent that they face and underperformance on the offensive line than a reflection on their ability to win the game. Indeed, they were close to victory despite such a bad performance.
Out of the two stat-lines below, which would you say was the Seattle’s game on Sunday, and which was the Super Bowl?
Team A: 26 first downs on 75 offensive plays, 25-35 passing for 255 yards (6.7), 37 rushing for 129 yards (3.5), 7 penalties for 34 yards.
Team B: 17 first downs on 55 offensive plays, 18-26 passing for 206 yards (7.9), 29 rushing for 135 yards (4.7), 10 penalties for 104 yards.
In fact, stat-line A was the game Sunday. The Seahawks were better disciplined and more productive. In fact, get this – the Broncos defense actually statistically played worse Sunday than they did in the Super Bowl. And still this game went to overtime. If that isn’t an encouraging factor for the Broncos, I don’t know what is.
Brian Billick once wrote that, in the NFL, “What’s the best way to get over a maddening loss? Start working on the next game.” If the Broncos want to improve and get another shot against Seattle in the Super Bowl, they will need to overcome history to win that one. And, for all the factors involved, the Broncos are motivated to close the next game out.