Cleat Geeks

Chiefs Come Back In Denver

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

As I watched the Broncos blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead Monday night to slip to 2-2 on the season, I couldn’t help but think of that classic line from A Tale of Two Cities, and how applicable it’s been to this NFL season. It’s both a microcosm of the Broncos’ 2018 season, and of each individual game, which has been a mixture of highs and lows. The team started 2-0, but never really looked dominant or in control. And they’ve since lost two games in a row, both of which had periods where the Broncos seemed to have gotten it together. In short, it’s been the best of times and worst of times for fans, and it doesn’t appear that’s likely to change the rest of this season.

Prior to 2018, I predicted the Broncos would be around .500, guessing they’d finish around 9-7 and hang around the playoff hunt. And there’s been nothing so far to suggest that won’t be the case. They are 2-2 and still have a chance in this topsy turvy NFL season. But they’ve got to step it up, and quickly, if they want to avoid the kind of slump that tanked their 2017 season.

Patrick Mahomes is a good quarterback. He came in with 13 TD passes and no interceptions through three weeks, leading the hottest offense in football. And for much of the game, the Broncos’ defense held him in check. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Broncos held a 23-13 lead and Mahomes was held without a passing TD (though he got one rushing). It looked promising.

But in the span of the final 12 minutes, Mahomes led a pair of touchdown drives. He connected with Travis Kelce for his 14th passing TD of the season, and was able to escape pressure, as he did all night, to lead a touchdown drive with less than two minutes left to give his team the 27-23 lead. The Broncos’ offense couldn’t recover, and they ended up seeing a 10-point fourth quarter home lead evaporate for the first time in more than a decade.

The Broncos’ offense was a mixed bag, too. They moved the ball well at times, but couldn’t finish drives. You can’t beat the Chiefs using field goals, and unfortunately the Broncos had to settle for a Brandon McManus kick three times Monday night. They ran the ball well, too, piling up a pair of rushing touchdowns. But they struggled to protect Case Keenum, who was sacked four times, and his touchdown drought moved to three games. But Keenum did throw another interception, as he has in each game this season.

And the final drive was a microcosm of the Broncos’ season. Keenum was sacked on first down, but connected with Emmanuel Sanders to convert fourth and 11. He hit Jeff Heuerman on a seam route for 36 yards to move into range, but missed a wide open Demaryius Thomas for what would have been the game-winning play.

And now the Broncos have six days to try and get it together before taking on the Jets on the road. Though they travel to play a 1-3 team that has looked lost, the Broncos open as 2.5 point underdogs. That just means there’s a lot of work left to do.

News and Notes:

  • Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay continue to shine. Freeman had some strong carries, going for 67 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Lindsay, meanwhile, ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, adding two receptions for 10 yards. The pair have been a bright spot for the Broncos’ offense, and part of an outstanding rookie class.
  • Courtland Sutton had three receptions for 51 yards, and it could have been more. The rookie wideout is showing that he’s the Broncos’ best deep threat, and I’d look for him to get more targets and more production as the season wears on.
  • Von Miller had three sacks in Week 1, and has just one sack since. He’s been held without a sack the past two games, though he was close Monday night. The Broncos need him to get to the quarterback, and for Bradley Chubb and Shane Ray to do the same, if they’re to hold teams in check on defense.
  • Keenum now has three TDs and six INTs on the season. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass since Week 1, and rumblings about his performances are getting louder. This isn’t what the Broncos envisioned when he signed for $18 million this season. If this continues, the Broncos may consider giving Chad Kelly a look.

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