(’76 Contributor) Since moving to Denver from Houston in October, I’ve found it been impossible not to pick up on the love affair this city has with the Broncos. It’s a topic that everyone has an opinion on, and everywhere you go on gameday you feel the team’s presence. Unfortunately, on this “day after,” the city is asking itself one thing: What happened to the Broncos?.
They entered the year with low expectations from those outside of Denver (including, at the time, me) due to the chaos within the team’s lockerroom and the fact they had a rookie head coach in Josh McDaniels who seemed to be losing control of his team before the season even began.
Six weeks into the season, the Broncos seemed well on their way to proving all the naysayers wrong with a 6-0 start and impressive victories over Dallas, San Diego and New England.
The win against the Patriots provided fans with the lasting image of McDaniels pumping his fist and screaming in celebration. After Sunday’s last-second loss to the lowly Raiders on their home field, the Broncos had receded back to mediocrity and McDaniels is searching for a reason why his team is in a 2-6 funk.
How could the Broncos defense, which had made a stellar goal line stand early in the fourth quarter, not shutdown Raiders backup quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the most beleagured quarterback in the NFL?
Russell drove down the field on the game-winning drive, at one point converting a first down on fourth-and-10, and picked apart the Broncos secondary. The Raiders receivers kept finding holes in the defense and Russell made the plays when it counted most.
The Broncos offense struggled the majority of the game and Kyle Orton showed Denver fans what many Chicago Bears fans already now, that he can’t get it down in crunch time.
After running for an average of 5.1 yards per carry in the first quarter, the Broncos’ running game was shutdown by the maligned Raiders defense and gained just 29 yards the rest of the game. Hardly the key for success when you have Orton under center.
McDaniels now has his biggest task of his career in front of him, try to turn things and push his team through the increasingly shrinking window to the postseason.