RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Pope's 42 yards on Denver's first drive brings up the grade. Pope hurt his hamstring on the first play of Denver's second possession, and the running game disappeared. Tatum Bell and Selvin Young were ineffective. Denver's best rusher after Pope was Cutler.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Broncos allowed fewer than 200 yards passing but didn't make many big plays. They had one sack, on the second play of the game, but didn't recover a fumble that was forced. They had no interceptions. And after the Broncos took back the lead late in the third quarter, RB Fred Jackson got free for a 65-yard catch and run.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Broncos did pretty well against the run, allowing only 87 yards on 26 carries. They did allow two short touchdowns against the run, one each to Marshawn Lynch and Jackson. But they didn't allow a run of longer than 11 yards, which is more than adequate.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Broncos feared Bills kickoff returner Leodis McKelvin after a couple of good returns early, so they started popping up kicks to keep the ball out of his hands. That backfired when a fourth-quarter kickoff to the 25-yard line was returned by the Bills to Denver's 45-yard line in a tie game. Also, Matt Prater's 54-yard field-goal miss didn't help.
COACHING: F -- The Broncos had to beat a 6-8 Bills team or go to San Diego for what amounts to a one-game playoff for the AFC West title. They started well, getting out to a 13-0 lead, then collapsed. A decision to have Prater try a 54-yard field goal in freezing conditions instead of punting was a turning point in the game because the Bills took the great field position and scored a touchdown before the end of the half. The coaching staff now has to get its devastated team ready to play against a hot Chargers team.
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