Denver Broncos: 3 Truths Fans Need to Know and Silver Linings from Playoff Loss
Before we get to the facts, consider this tweet from Thursday, January 10:
During the week leading up to the game, it was becoming apparent that the Baltimore Ravens were preparing to give the Denver Broncos everything they had in the divisional round. The film showed that Baltimore's defense was aggressive, attacked the ball and was much improved since three major starters returned from injury.
Broncos fans, however, were quick to shoot down my case and point to how many yards the defense allowed in the Wild Card Round. The Broncos had 398 yards of offense on Saturday, but that didn't stop the Ravens from recording three sacks and two interceptions—the final interception ultimately deciding the game.
Whether or not the Broncos took the Ravens seriously enough doesn't matter now—the game is history. The fans certainly did not take them seriously, and that is why there has been so much outrage and fickleness following the loss.
If the fair-weather, fickle fans were running this franchise, Tim Tebow would still be the quarterback and the Broncos would have probably gone 5-11 in the regular season. I am a Tebow fan, but that's just a hard fact.
With quarterback Peyton Manning, every one of the Broncos' offensive weapons increased in value. Without Manning, the Broncos offense would not have scored as many points as they did in 2012.
And without scoring 30.1 points per game, there is no way the Broncos would have won more than five games in 2012. So, you can jump off the bandwagon now, but the facts are as follows:
1. Champ Bailey and Rahim Moore made mistakes, but will both stay in Denver.
Addressing Bailey first, fans began tweeting me after the game that Bailey should be cut in the offseason to save cap room.
The fact is, Bailey allowed just one touchdown in the regular season and Torrey Smith is one of the faster wide receiver in the NFL. In the second half, Bailey adjusted and basically shut Smith down.
Moving forward, the most the Broncos would do is move Bailey to safety because he has lost some speed, but even that is not likely to happen before 2014. Bailey made some poor plays, as do all defensive backs, but he hasn't lost his ability to play cornerback at a high level—yet.
As for Moore, darn him for screwing up in the biggest possible way, but he is not going anywhere, either. One play—or two, or three—does not cause a team to cut a player.
Moore made fantastic strides from his rookie season in 2012 and, until he had a rough day that culminated with him terribly misjudging a pass during the most important play in the game, Moore was having a good season.
Defensive backs are humans that make mistakes. Bailey and Moore made some poor plays, but that does not cancel out the fact that they are both starters for a reason.
The fans that want Bailey and Moore gone are the same Denver fans that watched New York's Darrelle Revis allow a touchdown pass right over his head to a rookie Broncos receiver three years ago. Defensive backs get beat, but the good ones bounce back.
In the second half of Saturday's loss, Smith was a non-factor. In 2013, we will see how Moore bounces back.
After admitting he misjudged the ball and blaming the loss on himself, Moore told this to the Denver Post: "At the end of the day, it was a great season. I'm sorry it ended this way. But, next year, it won't."
What happened, happened. That's all you can ask of Moore. Do better next time.
2. The referees called a poor game, but fans cannot solely blame them.
The referees called a particularly poor game on Saturday and bad calls were made on both sides. That did not ultimately decide the game, though.
The Broncos had chances to win the game before overtime and in first and second overtime. The refs made the game frustrating to watch, but when the game was on the line, the Broncos, not the refs, cost Denver a victory.
3. Like Champ and Rahim, John Fox isn't going anywhere.
After the game, fans were also tweeting me that John Fox should be fired. After winning the AFC West in back-to-back seasons and securing players like Von Miller and Peyton Manning? No way.
Fox is overly conservative, and his conservativeness played a big part in Denver's loss (blame Fox all you want, but Manning's second overtime interception is what cost the game). But that can be addressed without firing Fox.
Denver's current offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, has already interviewed with three teams and is currently being aggressively pursued by the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. If McCoy does leave Denver, the Broncos would be wise to bring in an aggressive coordinator to balance Fox's conservativeness.
Fox is a great coach, but his overseeing of the play-calling should stop now. And if it had been McCoy making the offensive decisions, it could be a blessing in disguise if McCoy leaves Denver.
Because he is the head coach, Fox has the ultimate decision in the play selection on Sundays. This offseason, John Elway needs to bring in an offensive coordinator to have control of the play-calling. But Fox isn't going anywhere, and he shouldn't be.
There are some silver linings.
If the Broncos had gone all the way, the team would be selecting 32nd overall in April. The team will now be drafting from the 28th overall spot.
Four spots is a big difference, especially for the Broncos, who like to trade down on draft day.
Another small consolation is seeing Broncos players participate in the Pro Bowl. As much of a joke as the game is, it is fun seeing the players have fun during the week-long festivities leading up to the game.
The Broncos will have five players in the Pro Bowl (Manning, Bailey, Miller, Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil). Receiver Demaryius Thomas is a first alternate, so if New England and Wes Welker make it to the Super Bowl, Thomas will become the sixth Bronco headed to Hawaii.
Because the Broncos are the AFC's highest seed to lose a divisional game, John Fox and his staff will also be responsible for coaching the AFC squad. As long as Fox doesn't punt on 3rd-and-1, the game should be enjoyable for Broncos fans, even if a Super Bowl was the ultimate goal.
Moving forward, the Broncos can use this 38-35 loss as motivation for 2013. After going 13-3 in 1996, the Broncos lost in their first playoff game to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Years later, after going 13-3 again, Denver suffered the same fate. In 1997, the Broncos made everyone forget about the previous season, and they'll be looking to do that again in 2013.
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