Twist Of Fate in AFC West

Larry WallaceCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

DENVER - DECEMBER 21:  Linebacker Kawika Mitchell #59 of the Buffalo Bills makes an interception of a Jay Culter pass late in the fourth quarter as intended receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos makes the tackle on the two yard line at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 21, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Bills defeated the Broncos 30-23.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

This is my first attempt to write an article here on the Bleacher Report.  I have been very entertained during this off season by all of you and your insight and wanted to offer something in return. 

Truth be told, I am a life long Bronco fan and I simply can't wait for the start of training camp.  I am encouraged by the improvements to the secondary and line backer personnel and confident that the defense will be much better than last year. 

I believe that Kyle Orton will thrive in this system and have his best statistical season to date.  With the other offensive personnel and the spread offense the real difference will be realized in the red zone, leading to an increase in scoring this year.  Bottom line: Better Defense + More Points Scored = More Wins

I also believe that Jay Cutler already had the best statistical season of his career last year.  He will long for the plethora of targets he had available.  By the end of the season he will be publicly complaining about the lack of talent around him.

But I digress... The point of this article is to examine the twist of fate that occurred last year and some of the subtle ironies related to that twist.

It seems to me that nearly every shocking event that has occurred this off season can be traced back to the 2nd half of the Buffalo game last year.  This was game 15 with the Broncos @ 8-6 and the Bills @ 6-8.

In fact there are three plays that standout here that changed things forever.  All of these plays involves our two most volatile players - Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler. 

1. 3rd and 10 on DEN 29 9:09 left in 3rd Game tied 13 -13

Cutler throws to Marshall for a 24 yard strike.  In an attempt to gain extra yards, Marshall fumbles and the ball is recovered by Buffalo. 

This play led to a field goal by Buffalo and took 4 minutes of the clock.

BUF 16 DEN 13

2. 2nd and 10 on the 15 yard line.  5:47 left in 4th BUF 30 DEN 23

Cutler throws to Brandon Marshall who could have caught the ball to possibly gain a first down and either score or continue the drive but dropped it instead.

3. 3rd and 10 on the 15 yard line.  5:42 left in 4th

Cutler throws to Brandon Marshall who could have had a chance at the ball but instead it was intercepted.

This ended our chance of getting back in the game (although we still had one more drive in us that failed).

I point out these plays because of the personnel involved (of course)!  If any of these plays turn out differently, we likely put some points on the board. 

If those points lead to winning this game - consider the likely outcome:

1.  Broncos clinch the AFC West and go to the playoffs.

2.  Mike Shanahan is not fired and given one more chance at redemption.

3. Jay Cutler gets some playoff experience and is ready to get back to work in 2009 - for the Broncos.

4. Marshall has no qualms because he knows he will return to a high powered offense where he also knows he will be the featured weapon in the last year of his contract.

5. Norv Turner is fired for missing the playoffs with some of the best talent in the league.  He is officially anointed the "biggest choker", edging out former Charger coach Marty Shottenheimer for the honor.

6. Herm Edwards is hired as San Diego's Head Coach and decides to switch to the 4-3 he hires Bob Slowik as the D Coordinator.

OK, OK, I know this is a little far fetched.  I also know there were several other reasons we lost that game to Buffalo and lost a 3 game lead to the Chargers.  However, I do think that if a couple of those plays go differently the Broncos and Chargers could have a vastly different situation today.

While a part of me would have delighted in this outcome.  Another part of me is looking forward to see a fresh product on the field.  The Offensive and Defensive schemes we are trying to employ are clearly the current "standards" in the NFL.  This was due to the innovative ways they were employed elsewhere.

Shanahan was a great coach and i am forever thankful for the electric brand of football (especially offense) he brought to the Broncos.  Back in the day, he was anointed the "Mastermind" for his offensive genius.  Over time, he failed to continue the innovation that made him great.  The past few years, coaches seemed to be able to better prepare for the Broncos defensively.  Especially in the red zone.

It was time for a change.  Let's cherish the glory years of the Broncos, forget about the Jay Cutler era and look forward to future glory of Denver Broncos football.  Maybe even with McDaniels here as the new "Mastermind" in town...

22 Days left till Preseason Kickoff @ Candlestick!

Go Broncos!


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