Let the quarterback controversy begin.
In a fitting tribute to the release of the new Star Wars movie, at times this game felt like it could set up as the classic hero story for quarterback Brock Osweiler. Instead, it was nothing more than a disappointing sequel to last week’s debacle in Oakland.
The Broncos came out of the locker room in a fury, jumping out to a 27-13 lead headed into the break. That half demonstrated the best Brock Osweiler has to offer the Denver Broncos. He moved the pocket, showed mobility, and completed the kind of downfield passes many of his critics thought he couldn’t.
However, near the end of the first half, Osweiler injured his non-throwing shoulder. From there, it became a tale of two halves for the 25-year-old passer. The Broncos offense, which had been so efficient in the first half, cooled rapidly coming out of the locker room.
Osweiler looked at the Steelers’ defenders as if he were a asymptote in the second half. His unit would not score a single second half point for the third consecutive game. Osweiler finished the game going 21/44 (44%), for 296 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
The Steelers took advantage of the Broncos banged up secondary, clawing their way back into the ballgame and tying it at 27 mid-way through the fourth quarter. Osweiler and company were given three different chances to break the tie and failed to move the ball on any of those attempts. However, Brock did not get much help from his receivers, either.
With five minutes left in the game, Osweiler threw an interception, setting up the Steelers for what would be the game winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Despite giving up 34 points, the Broncos defense did not play poorly. They rushed the passer, and forced a turnover in the first half. However, thanks to the Broncos offensive inefficiency, the NFL’s top defensive unit was asked to stay on the field for the vast majority of the second half. That is a tough task for even the best of defenses, and it showed.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was disappointed by the stark contrasts in his team’s first and second half performance. “We took advantage of every opportunity in the first half,” Kubiak said. “We didn’t make any plays in the second half. We’ve lost two in a row. Tough games, but the thing is ‘do you learn from it?”
The story this week in Denver, and across the NFL will be all about whether five time NFL MVP Peyton Manning will return to the starting lineup next week during the Broncos’ Monday Night Football matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Manning is recovering from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, and after returning to practice last week, many have speculated that the team is preparing to return him to the lineup in the near future.
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