What makes pro football special is the 16-game war of attrition that all 32 NFL teams go through year in and year out. Blood, sweat and tears get poured out by players and coaches alike in hopes of a successful season.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1742909-denver-broncos-head-coach... One loss in basketball, baseball, or hockey is a drop in the bucket compared to their long seasons. One loss in football can be the difference between making the playoffs or sitting at home on the couch watching them.
As disappointing as the season was here in the Mile High City, there were great moments as well. Taking a look back, I broke down the most memorable Denver Broncos games from 2016.
September 8, 2016, Week 1
Denver Broncos 21, Carolina Panthers 20
The media narrative of a Super Bowl rematch is always overblown. While not technically a championship rematch, the game still had a big fight feel.
Denver opened the season against the Panthers with all the pomp and circumstance benefitting a returning champion. From the Super Bowl banners being unveiled inside of Mile High Stadium to Trevor Siemian making the first start of his career, optimism and enthusiasm were present everywhere during the season opener.
The Panthers struck early with Cam Newton looking sharp in his attempt to get the bad taste out of his mouth from the beating he took in the championship game little more than six months earlier. Bronco mistakes deep in Panther territory staked Carolina to a 17-7 lead going into the half.
The defending champs, like so many times before, showed grit and resolve in battling back. Led by the running and receiving skills of C.J. Anderson, who had two scores in the fourth quarter to pull ahead, Denver managed to take a 21-20 advantage midway through the last period of play.
Carolina wouldn’t go quietly and worked in its own possession in the closing minutes to set up Graham Gano for a game-winning field goal. Similar to the Super Bowl, Gano pushed his kick wide-left as time expired and Denver opened the season with hard-fought win at home.
November 13, 2016, Week 10
Denver Broncos 25, New Orleans Saints 23
The Broncos headed to the Bayou to take on the Saints coming off a dampening loss to the Raiders the week before. With the bye week next up on the schedule, and a chance to rest up some bumps and bruises, it was imperative that Denver get back to the comforts of home with a win.
Safety Darian Stewart would do his part, picking off a pass and recovered a fumble to set up Denver with good field position. Trevor Siemian led an efficient effort to capitalize on those opportunities and got Denver out to a 10-3 advantage going in to halftime.
It’s hard to keep a great player like Drew Brees down, however. The quarterback came out firing after the intermission and threw two scoring passes to push the Saints out in front 17-10 as the game entered the final period.
Trading scoring drives late, Brees orchestrated more heroics, laying a perfectly thrown deep-ball to Brandin Cooks to tie the game with a 1:22 left in the game. With an ensuing extra point, it looked like Denver's great effort on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball would be for naught.
In one of the most unusual finishes to a game, rookie safety Justin Simmons would use his 40-inch vertical leap to hurdle Saints blockers and get his hands on the Wil Lutz’s kick. The ball deflected and found its way into the hands of fellow rookie Will Parks, who used a wall of blockers to return it back for a rare two-point return that proved to be the difference in the game.
January 1, 2017, Week 17
Denver Broncos 24, Oakland Raiders 6
Seeing the schedule at the beginning of the year, it was easy to project the matchup to close the season with the Raiders as a potential showdown between the two rivals, with the winner taking the division and bragging rights for the year.
Instead, it turned into a bittersweet send-off for Gary Kubiak, who resigned his position as Head Coach of the Denver Broncos the next day. With word of Kubiak's planned departure leaking out before hand, the game took on new meaning. On top of wanting to spoil Oakland’s chances of winning the AFC West crown, the entire roster desperately wanted to send 'Kube' out with a victory.
For the first time since the win against the Houston Texans in October, the Broncos found their running game, as Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett both broke off sizable gains on the ground. Trevor Siemian would have one of his best halves throwing the football, and Denver stymied the playoff-bound Raiders 17-0 going into halftime.
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Playing with a lead for the first time in a while, the Denver pass rush teed off on backup signal-caller Matt McGloin, eventually knocking him out of the game. Third-string rookie Connor Cook had some success in the contest but it was too late.
It was an inspired effort on the part of the Broncos to send out their embattled coach with his head held high.
Denver took the day and reminded fans of what this team was capable of. Under a wave of criticism and scrutiny since the loss at home to Kanas City, Denver managed to end the season with a winning record and save some face going into next season.
For as much as we would like it to be, its unrealistic to expect the Broncos to be in the playoffs. In a dominant run that included five Division titles, two conferences titles and one Super Bowl Championship, the last five years have been arguably the greatest era of success in franchise history.
With young talent teeming on both sides of the ball, little expected in the way of key free agent departures, and the presence of the John Elway in the front office, the future is still bright in Denver.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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