The Denver Broncos left Kansas City dejected and out of the AFC West race. Now the big question is how the team finishes the season.
Denver is 3-5 at the halfway point after Sunday’s 30-23 loss to the Chiefs and a second straight losing season seems likely. Who is on the roster and walking the sidelines the rest of the way is to be determined.
General manager John Elway said before Sunday it was a must-win game for the Broncos, but they didn’t play that way. Denver had 10 penalties for 83 yards and three times flags wiped out big gains. It’s not the mark of a disciplined team.
They started well, taking a 7-0 lead, but there was an inevitability to Kansas City taking over, even after Case Keenum threw a touchdown pass to Tim Patrick at the end of the half to cut the lead to 16-14.
Two Chiefs touchdowns in the third quarter, one by Kareem Hunt, who hurdled safety Will Parks on his way to the end zone and a 30-14 lead.
The must win became a predictable loss, and the five loss in the last six games has the players baffled.
“Seeing the team that we put out there every week, it’s surprising to me,” linebacker Von Miller told reporters after the game. “We have a great team. We have great coaches. We have a great culture. We have all of the ingredients to win football games. We’re just not doing it. We get so many penalties and we’re an undisciplined football team. It’s extremely frustrating.”
Here are three things to watch for heading into the next game:
-- Will Demaryius Thomas still be on the team after Tuesday’s trade deadline? Thomas has been the subject of trade rumors, and with the season slipping away some contender might need him to bolster its offense. The strong play of rookie Courtland Sutton and the quiet but efficient way Patrick has played could make Thomas expendable.
-- Will there be staff changes? Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been criticized and could be a fall guy. The offense hasn’t flourished under coordinator Bill Musgrave, even with a new quarterback and two dynamic running backs. And will Vance Joseph survive the season. Penalties are a discipline issue, which goes back to coaching.
-- Who else could be gone by Tuesday? Other than Miller and Chris Harris Jr. who are the untouchables on this roster? Hard to name someone other than rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb.
It should be an interesting week at Dove Valley.