Denver, Colo. -- With another Divisional Round exit for Peyton Manning, his ninth career such loss, changes could be in the air. The No. 2 seed Denver Broncos lost to Andrew Luck and the No. 4 seed Indianapolis Colts 24-13.
The Broncos were out-executed in nearly every aspect of the game. RB C.J. Anderson had a good night, with 18 carries for 80 yards, including a crucial conversion on a fourth down. CB Bradley Roby and S Rahim Moore both notched interceptions off Luck. Special-teamer Omar Bolden made one crucial stop on a punt return and forced a fumble on another that was overturned via review.
But in the end, the Colts simply out-battled the Broncos. The defensive line was unable to get any pressure on Andrew Luck, who was not sacked and rarely hit throughout the entire game.
The Broncos receivers could not get open against the Colts press coverage. Aqib Talib couldn’t contain WR T.Y. Hilton. And the Broncos were out-coached, with a terrible game-plan on both sides of the ball.
DT Terrance Knighton said afterwards, “They outplayed us. As a collective whole, as a team they executed better than us. It’s disappointing.”
And for the Denver fans, it is indeed disappointing. In the last three seasons, the Broncos have endured three difficult playoff losses against just two wins. And now, starters or major contributors like Knighton, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, Will Montgomery, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, Nate Irving, Brandon Marshall and Virgil Green may not be with the team as they enter free agency.
Even the coaching staff may be markedly different, with Jay Glazer reporting that Head Coach John Fox may find himself on the hot seat after this debacle. And with coordinators Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio interviewing for head coaching positions elsewhere, the Broncos may look very different indeed.
This has a similar feeling to the loss to the Ravens in the 2012 playoffs and the Seahawks in the 2013 Super Bowl. Moving forward, will John Elway make the tough choices and change the team? That remains to be seen, but it will be the plot-line moving forward.
For now, what remains? Another playoff loss for Denver in the Fox/Manning era.
Peyton Manning said he was “disappointed” after the game. He’s not the only heartbroken one in Denver.