Denver's eighth game was a nightmare, a 44-7 defeat to the Detroit Lions. Quarterback Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a bruised left fibula, and after that the game got out of control.
The Broncos, who are 3-5, might have to win six or seven of their remaining games to be in the playoff race. However, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he wasn't going to starting looking ahead to next season.
"My mindset is never to play for next year," Shanahan said. "Never will be."
Denver might not have much choice. With injuries mounting, the Broncos have been forced to turn to many young players already. The Broncos have seven players on injured reserve and receiver Rod Smith will remain on the physically unable to perform list the rest of the season.
The Broncos have tried not to concern themselves with the injuries, no matter how bad it has gotten.
"I try not to really think about it much," left tackle Matt Lepsis said. "It doesn't help any to think about 'Oh, we're missing Tom (Nalen) and Ben (Hamilton) and all these people.'"
Cutler's injury was too much to overcome on Sunday. He bruised his fibula early in the second quarter when a Lions defender hit him in the leg with his helmet. The Broncos were relieved that X-rays showed Cutler's leg wasn't broken. He did have a deep bruise, however, and couldn't return to the game.
Patrick Ramsey took his place. He had 262 yards, but also two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns. Shanahan, who said he thought Ramsey played well in relief, was upset with the turnovers, penalties and other mistakes from his team on Sunday.
The Broncos lost earlier this season to San Diego 41-3, and Shanahan said he felt about the same after a 37-point loss at Detroit.
"I've been embarrassed a couple of times this year, obviously," Shanahan said. "More so than any time in my career."
Everything went south for the Broncos against Detroit. The normal culprits were still a problem. The rush defense allowed 130 yards. The pass defense, which has suddenly been vulnerable, allowed some big plays and 252 yards total. Denver had a slight chance to get back in the game, down 23-0 in the third quarter, but red-zone problems crept in again and the Broncos couldn't punch the ball in the end zone with second down at Detroit's 4-yard line. The Lions got 96 yards on two pass plays after a turnover on downs to blow the game open.
The Broncos still have five road games among their final eight contests, including this week at Kansas City, so a .500 record won't be easy to attain. The Broncos haven't finished with a losing record since 1999. That 6-10 campaign was Shanahan's only losing season in his first 12 years as Broncos coach.
--RB Travis Henry hurt his knee in the third quarter, but briefly returned to the game. He sat out most of the fourth quarter, but the game was decided by then. Henry said he could have played if it were a close game.
--S John Lynch was inactive against Detroit. Lynch will return to the field once the symptoms of a recent stinger have gone away.
--QB Patrick Ramsey took over for an injured Jay Cutler, and put up some decent numbers, although plenty of his completions came after the game was decided. He completed 29 of 46 passes for 262 yards.
--WR Brandon Stokley's late 4-yard touchdown saved the Broncos from
being shut out. The last time Denver was shut out was 1992, three years
before Mike Shanahan took over as head coach.
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