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Jettisoned. Broncos' bid for relevancy ends with fourth-straight loss

Rypien showed flashes, but inept offense continues to drag Denver down
Jets Broncos Football
Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-24 08:15:07-04

DENVER — Shannon Sharpe walked through the hallway on the fourth level of the stadium, his ripped biceps practically forcing his t-shirt to scream for help. He struck an imposing figure worthy of the Super Bowl XXXIII championship team that reunited at Empower Field.

Sharpe, a Hall of Famer and popular media personality, returns to Denver for big team events.

"But I didn't expect this," Sharpe said of the Broncos' losing streak that threatened to ruin their season. "Hopefully they win today."

Sharpe brought the crowd to its feet moments before kickoff with the microphone in the north end zone, fans stomping and screaming in delirium. It was, alas, Sunday's zenith. With Brett Rypien at quarterback, the Broncos' offense remained impotent, wasting stifling defense as they dropped their fourth consecutive game.

The final: Jets 16, Broncos 9.

"I am sick of being up here and saying the same thing. There are no excuses," coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "We have been in these situations. And it's frustrating."

Trailing by seven with 4:35 remaining, the Broncos awoke from their second-half hibernation that included four punts, an interception, and two turnovers on downs. Receptions by tight end Greg Dulcich and Courtland Sutton moved the Broncos to the 25-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-3 with two minutes left.

With their bid for remaining relevance on the line, Rypien, who was 26 for 46 for 225 yards late in the fourth, lofted a ball to Sutton in the end zone. It was deflected and batted down as Sutton could not haul it in. That was the game.

"I am just sick of being right there. We keep saying we are right there, saying It’s going to turn around. But to be honest (bleep) that," nose guard Mike Purcell said. "We have to turn it around.”

Let's start with this. The Broncos are a bad team. A horrible offense, specifically, that is an anchor on hope. No one can dispute this. No matter the quarterback.

The Broncos entered Sunday doing nothing well offensively. It's why they are the first team in NFL history to allow fewer than 17 points per game through seven games and have a losing record. That's the because the Broncos offense has scored eight touchdowns in eight games, off to their worst start in terms of points since 1966.

Their coaches have been sleeping at the office for a few weeks, which reflected more panic than urgency, especially in light of the product unleashed against the Colts after an 11-day layoff. Sunday, it wasn't Broncos Country, Let's Ride! It was Broncos Country Let's Ryp!

With Russell Wilson out with a left hamstring injury — he threw in the pregame and looked more mobile than at practice — Rypien made his second career start. It was clunky, as expected, but the former Boise State star showed chemistry with Jerry Jeudy (seven catches, 96 yards). The Broncos dominated the first half time of possession, Latavius Murray scored his first Denver touchdown and the 10-9 deficit felt encouraging after 12 first downs, a 3-for-8 conversion rate on third down and one penalty. But a missed extra point and field goal by Brandon McManus lingered over the game with a stench.

The offense included a common sense moment on the touchdown drive as Rypien eschewed the shotgun on third-and-1.

And yet, the Broncos trailed after three quarters because their second-half drives included four punts, a pick and a turnover on downs. The offense has scored three points in the third quarter this season. The defense has scored two. What the offense has done to this team, if not the season, is negligence. It has caused friction, which was palpable in the locker room after the overtime loss to the Chargers.

At this point, the offense would improve with ball security and cross fingers the defense scores. There remains no margin for error. It's why Rypien's third-quarter interception left a pit in stomachs. Pressured by Quinnen Williams, Rypien locked in on Dulcich, lofting a ball into coverage that was easily snagged by Jets defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.

The Jets turned the pick into a field goal, ballooning their lead to 13-9 with 12:10, the four-point deficit gnawing because coach Hackett chose not to go for it on fourth down-and-1 twice in the second half at midfield and his own 34.

The Broncos dominated the first half, the score notwithstanding. Zach Wilson became The Matrix avoiding sacks, and the one he took from Dre'Mont Jones saved him from a scoop-and-score touchdown from D.J. Jones. The Jets popped one seam, rookie Mike Breece breezing in for a 62-yard touchdown.

"In the end, we win and lose as a team," Hackett said. "We have to find a way to win these games."

It's frustrating and unfair to the defense, which allowed 10 first downs. But this is what happens to bad teams. And that's what the Broncos are, calling into question if Hackett should surrender play-calling duties.

"I think we will always look at everything. I always look at myself first and foremost. If there's something we all agree that I might hold the team back or anything like that. I don't think that's the case," said Hackett. "I think there are plays to be had there. I think have been in and out of the huddle, and the communication has been really good. But we will look at everything to try and improve this offense."

Trade Winds Swirl around Jeudy, Chubb
The Broncos continue to receive calls on multiple players in advance of Tuesday's 2 p.m. trade deadline. Denver has not shopped players, waiting to see how the team performs entering bye. Multiple teams have expressed interest in receiver Jerry Jeudy. A source told Denver7 that the Packers wanted Jeudy included in a trade for Aaron Rodgers, so Green Bay is a team to keep an eye on.

Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, healthy and productive, has drawn interest. He entered Sunday with a team-best 5.5 sacks. The Broncos, though, could place the franchise tag on Chubb after this season. It would be difficult to fit in all the pieces with the team already paying big money to Randy Gregory, but Gregory's history of absences suggests that Chubb could make sense for one more season.

Other players who could be moved include tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (he was a healthy scratch for the second straight week), running back Melvin Gordon (appears to have lost starting job to Latavious Murray) and K.J. Hamler (hasn't found fit in the offense and have Montrell Washington and Jalen Virgil on roster).


Safety Caden Sterns missed his second straight game with a hip injury. There's a growing concern that Sterns will miss significant time. It's a tough break for Sterns who was off to a fantastic start, and leads the Broncos with two interceptions. He figured to assume an important role in nickel and dime packages following Simmons' return. ...

Outside linebacker Baron Browning injured his hip in the third quarter and was ruled out. The Broncos are already without Randy Gregory (out since the Raiders game with a knee injury) and Aaron Patrick (torn ACL). Nik Bonitto replaced Browning on the first series after the injury. ...

Mike Boone led the Broncos with 23 first-half rushing yards, but exited in the second quarter with an ankle injury.