Let's put it this way: there are a lot of rough weeks for an 11 year old when Wade Phillips is coaching his favorite team on Sundays.
Thankfully, mercifully, ol' Wade finally left Denver and a savior was brought in. Mike Shanahan loved the Broncos, loved the city, loved the owner, and like me, loved John Elway. This was a match made in heaven.
Under the tutelage of Shanahan, the Broncos improved every season, finally winning the first of their two Super Bowls in San Diego against the Green Bay Packers. I can't speak for the rest of the Rocky Mountain Region, but I cried for my team, cried out of happiness, as the memories of those awful formative years in Dallas faded away (for the record, I think Dallas went 5-11 that season, helping me to exorcise the demons).
Back then, we had a great team, with talent on both sides of the ball; a quarterback who wasn't making mistakes and a big-game runner, a strong defensive corps featuring a linebacker who later admitted cheating on steroids and a D-lineman whose special move was lifting up a three-hundred pound offensive tackle and tossing him into the lap of the opposing quarterback.
That was then. This is similar. Eerily similar.
Now though, this team seems to have trouble closing out games. Almost needed an extra period against the Washington Redskins. Watched in horror as the defending World Champion New England Patriots nearly came back in the fourth. Then finally had it all catch up with us when we lost in the swamp to the G-Spots. This cannot happen.
Let me tell you the difference between those days with Elway and Davis, Romo and Mobley, and these days. Killer instinct. It's that simple.
The Redskins game was a close one, no doubt, and they're a very good team. But we should have closed better against the Patriots. We should have won by three touchdowns against the Giants. On the Hardcore Message Board, there are a lot of folks talking about how we wore down defensively at the end of those games, and they're right. But our offense is responsible.
When our defense is most effective, our offense is moving the ball methodically up the field, like they did against the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. They're getting four-to-five yards a pop on the ground, and moving the chains every two-to-three downs. They're completing short passes underneath that are hard to defend against and turning them into larger plays.
The fact is, our offense has been hanging our defense out to dry as they hang their hats on a somewhat substantial lead. This cannot happen. We will lose games on the road this way. Mark my words.
A few weeks ago, folks were talking Super Bowl. And that's fine, I have no problem with some healthy expectations; generally, I'm the one laying them on the line. But even if we got to the Super Bowl, if we play to a big lead and then let the other team in late, we A) won't win, and B) will be laughingstocks, as the "greatest comeback in Super Bowl history" is relived over and over and over again by the media. Think of the Curse of the Bambino during last year's World Series, then imagine them playing the clip of the final opposing team's touchdown over and over and over again for years to come.
This can't happen.
Mr. Shanahan, I'm pleading with you. Score more points. Score them early, and score them often. Don't stop until you reach 30 points. Once you reach 30, call a conservative but effective game plan to take time off the clock. Stretch runs, short rollout passes, screens. Move the chains. Run the clock. Get the win.
Our Super Bowl dreams are on your shoulders. Start calling a better game.
Sam DeWitt is a sportswriter living in Denver with his dog, Bailey. He writes regular columns for BroncosUpdate.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Scout.com handle is TheRealMoose.
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