In analyzing the Denver Broncos 7-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars one fact stands out far above the rest.
Mike Shanahan's decision to run one final play before an easy Jason Elam chip shot cost Denver the game.
Plain and simple.
Elam, one of the league's premier field goal kickers, had forty-four seconds and a straight shot from the 24-yard line to give Denver its second victory of the season. Yet, in all his wisdom, Shanahan chose to run one more play.
Quentin Griffin up the middle, one stumble, one fumble and the game was over.
Even the Jaguars seemed amazed.
"I couldn't believe it," Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith said afterwards. "I laid back on the bench and thought it was over."
In all reality, everyone thought it was over.
It could have been so simple. Take your third down, bring in Elam and call it an afternoon. A quick shower, a short bus ride to the airport and Denver heads home undefeated, atop the AFC West.
Instead Shanahan felt he needed a few more yards before bringing in the franchise's most prolific scorer.
"We had plenty of time to hand the ball off and get a few more yards," Shanahan said, trying to deflect his obvious blunder.
"I don't think he (Griffin) ever had it. It is different if a guy has it in his stomach and somebody strips it. He never got it from the quarterback. I'm not sure if Jake stumbled or what happened."
What happened was Shanahan blew it.
Had he wanted to run time off the clock he could have simply ran one more play with Plummer either taking a knee or throwing it through the end zone. That choice alone could have knocked at least 5-10 seconds off the clock, rendering a Jacksonville comeback impossible.
Even without running more time off the clock, had the Broncos scored on third down it would have left the Jaguars with approximately thirty seconds to take the kickoff, run the length of the field and score a field goal of their own.
Considering that the Broncos defense had held the Jags scoreless from the second quarter on, this scenario seems highly unlikely.
Jacksonville managed one score the entire afternoon and suddenly Shanahan has no confidence in the Broncos defense to be able to shut them down the final thirty seconds of the game?
No confidence in Elam's ability to connect from 40-yards out?
Maybe it's the fact that Shanahan has lost his confidence, period.
Confidence in the offense, confidence in the defense, and confidence in his own abilities as one of the most renowned coaches in the National Football League.
Coaching error or lack of confidence?
Either way it's a problem that Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos can ill afford to deal with this early in the season.
Shanahan's Lack of Confidence
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Mile High Huddle02/16/2017