Broncos' defensive letdown, special team mistakes, boiling emotions stain OT loss to Chiefs

Posted at 2:14 PM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-28 17:35:10-05

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A confluence of factors conspired to deliver the Broncos' most stinging home loss since the Indianapolis Colts eliminated them in the 2014 playoffs.

The Monday morning snapshot calls for blaming the defense. Authors of multiple dramatic curtain closures over the past seasons, the Broncos couldn't produce a stop. They surrendered an eight-point lead with 3:12 remaining in regulation and permitted the game-winning field goal in overtime. At that point, computer simulations gave the Chiefs a 4 percent chance of victory. And the Broncos surrendered a first down on fourth-and-10, leading to the tie in regulation. Kubiak insisted the coverage didn't change, echoing players' comments in the locker room.

"It's on us," Chris Harris Jr. said. "We got dumb."

Added cornerback Aqib Talib, "I would have bet my game check that they wouldn't score on us."

The ending laid on the defense's doorstep. But there were multiple accomplices in the team's fourth loss, which leaves the Broncos scrambling for a playoff berth with five games remaining. Special teams undermined the Broncos. They allowed a Tyreek Hill kick return for a touchdown, Jordan Norwood muffed two punts, and an illegal formation took a field goal off the board and led to a Chiefs score. Norwood's flaws were dramatic. Frustration boiled over when the Chiefs recovered a Norwood fumble with 12:29 remaining in the fourth. Cornerback Aqib Talib shoved Norwood off the field as safety Darian Stewart yelled in the receiver's direction, appearing to signal for him to head to the sideline.

"They compete all the time. I see guys competing. I see guys upset. Jordan and Aqib are fine. I can promise you that," said Kubiak, who wasn't happy with Talib's push. "I tell our players all the time, we battle together, we don't battle each other."

Norwood sought out Talib Monday morning. The pair talked, and have move forward.

"He's emotional. I am too," Norwood said. "We are on the same page."

Talib said he apologized to Norwood. He indicated that these type of outbursts are not uncommon.

"I love football. I love to win. I love the game. That's how I play," Talib said. "I just call it playing football."

Norwood is used on returns because of ability to field the ball. He provides little in the way of dynamic returns, averaging 8.7 yards on 23 returns with a long of 17. Emmanuel Sanders and Talib are options but their use must be weighed against the injury risk.

The offense dug the Broncos a hole with porous offensive line play. After allowing two sacks and being flagged for a pair of penalties, right tackle Ty Sambrailo was mercifully benched in favor of former starter Donald Stephenson. Kubiak was pleased with Stephenson's progress, and he will start going forward.

The Broncos trailed 9-0 despite allowing 49 first-half yards. Denver couldn't capitalize, managing merely 124 yards of its own. Quarterback Trevor Siemian responded with the best second half of his career. He completed 11 of 19 passes with three touchdowns by making plays with his feet out of the pocket. However, the Broncos failed to put the Chiefs away in overtime, stalling on their own 44-yard line.

It led to a decision that has been second guessed. After a brief mulling period, coach Gary Kubiak sent out kicker Brandon McManus for a 62-yard field goal for the win. McManus took out a divot with his right foot, leaving him with no chance, and compromising the defense.

Kubiak harbored no second thoughts Monday about going for the win. He said there's plenty of time left. He sent a message to his team that a victory was what mattered not settling for a tie that might have improved the Broncos' playoff position. The players appreciated his confidence despite the result. 

"If we punt, we are punting to lose or tie," Kubiak explained.

General manager John Elway defended Kubiak's decision on Monday.

"We're in the game to WIN. Although everyone's disappointed, we played hard & went down swinging!!!" Elway tweeted.


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