Everywhere you looked on Sunday, the Denver Broncos came up short. For the last 29 games, they've lived by the skin of their teeth, eeking out wins late in games, after the offense would stink it up for three-plus quarters.
When the cards get played that close to the vest; when the margin of error is that slim, they simply can't afford mistakes. On Sunday, against the Tennessee Titans, the Broncos made a multitude of errors and two of the worst came late in the game, with all the chips down.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... Although it was great for the Broncos to get Trevor Siemian back, it made little difference offensively for more than three quarters. The Broncos failed to convert on third down until more than halfway through the fourth quarter, finishing the day 3-of-11 on the money down.
The recently acquired running back Justin Forsett talked about his goal of sparking the offense, but got off on the wrong foot, losing a fumble on his first carry as a Bronco. He and Devontae Booker share that distinction.
From there, Forsett did bring a spark — a quickness and vision that has been lacking in the Denver backfield, but Head Coach Gary Kubiak failed to scheme Forsett into the game consistently enough to make an impact.
Forsett had a nice 20-yard run called back due to a holding penalty on center Matt Paradis. It was that type of game for the Broncos. Every time they'd get something going, they'd shoot themselves in the foot and nullify their momentum.
Punting on all but their possessions but the last one of the first half, the Broncos offense did zero favors to their embattled defense. Von Miller and company were on the field for more than 20 of the first 30 minutes of the game. Tennessee got out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back.
On the very next play, cornerback Aqib Talib retaliated on the Titans sideline, costing his team 15 yards. But it was yardage the team would gladly take. Douglas' hit on Harris might be the dirtiest of the 2016. Harris is lucky that it didn't end his season.
To Denver's credit, though they struggled stopping Tennessee's 'Exotic Smashmouth' rushing attack, they did keep the score manageable. The game was never out of reach until the final moments.
The Broncos offense finally sparked late in the the third quarter, after Kubiak abandoned the run. They would finish with 18 rushing yards on nine carries. Siemian and company were able to muster up some momentum, but stalled at Tennessee's 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Kubiak had the opportunity to put three points on the board, but down by two touchdowns, he chose to go for it and the Broncos failed to convert. From there, the Broncos defense did a good job of stopping Marcus Mariota and the Titans rushing attack, giving Siemian good field position.
The Broncos finally cashed in on a touchdown drive with 9:58 left in the game, narrowing Tennessee's lead to six points. After another stop by the Broncos defense, Siemian drove the Broncos down into the Titans redzone.
On 3rd-&-Goal from the Titans 16, Siemian hit receiver Bennie Fowler in the endzone, down the left seam, but he dropped it. The touchdown would have given the Broncos a one-point lead, assuming Brandon McManus converted the extra point.
Unfortunately, the Broncos had to settle for a field goal, but they still received one last chance to win the game. The Broncos defense stopped the Titans, who punted the ball, pinning the Broncos on their own 2-yard line with 2:26 to go and two timeouts.
Siemian once again began to march the Broncos down the field, completing four passes. On the fifth completion, alas, tight end A.J. Derby fumbled the ball and the game away, handing Tennessee their seventh win of the season.
The bottom line; the Broncos aren't playing Championship-caliber football. They're not even playing playoff-caliber football. With five losses, they're now faced with the task of playing the AFC's top-3 teams in the final three weeks of the season.
After Sunday's loss, it's hard to see the Broncos even making the playoffs. The Titans clearly wanted it more than the Broncos. This team looks tired and the offense, despite some strong play from Siemian (late in the game), looks completely lost.
That's not a recipe for success.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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