We knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time.
Like when the main theme from Jaws starts playing, you could feel the attack and disaster coming.
The Denver Broncos were never going to run the table and finish the regular season a perfect 16-0. It's only happened twice in the past 37 years, so you knew it was a long shot to happen. The Broncos were eventually going to lose a game.
So why are so many fans panicking and reacting like they had just gotten knocked out of the playoffs in the first round? Well, because that's what fans do. They cheer and bang their chests when their team is winning, and they scream "fire!" and "abandon ship!" when the team loses. It's just how a lot of fans are.
While the first loss of a season is always a disappointment to a team and its' fans, it also provides a chance for the Broncos to see where they can improve and how to do it. It also brings the fan base back to the reality that this is not a perfect team. It's a wake up call for all parties involved.
That said, there are a multitude of reasons why Broncos fans should not panic over this defeat to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Here are three:
1. There Are Still Nine Games to Play
The good news here is this rather flat performance by the Broncos didn't come in the week or weeks immediately preceding the postseason. Teams that start fast and fade late in the season (see the 2008 Tennessee Titans) often see early exits in the playoffs.
With this loss coming just before the halfway point in the regular season, the Broncos have plenty of time to adjust and improve in the areas where they fell short against the Ravens. The team still holds a two-game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West, and with two games against Kansas City and one with Oakland remaining in their final nine games, the Broncos should be able to right the ship in time for the playoffs.
Yes, the Broncos face another tough test at home against the Steelers next Monday, but after that they face a much softer three-game stretch on the road against the Redskins, at home against the on again, off again Chargers (who had a tougher time than they should have against the Raiders today), and then a Thanksgiving Day battle with the suddenly beatable Giants.
2. The Important Line for Kyle Orton Today: Zero Turnovers
Usually in games as lopsided as these, the quarterback has a turnover or two to his credit. An interception thrown during desperation time or a fumble often plays a role in a defeat like this.
Not so today for Kyle Orton.
While Orton didn't do the team any favors by averaging a mediocre 6.6 yards per completion today and being sacked twice, he didn't turn the ball over when the Broncos were trying to play catchup and put this game even further out of reach than it already was. Orton was under fire all day and didn't make the boneheaded play many quarterbacks do.
What hurt the Broncos much more today was its inept ability to run the ball against a suddenly revitalized Ravens defense led by linebacker Ray Lewis.
Again, Orton will face another brutal defense against the Steelers next week, but the aforementioned three-game stretch afterward should allow Orton to get his groove back.
3. The Chargers Are Much Weaker than They Were Last Year
Many Broncos fans have been worrying, especially after today's loss, that history will repeat itself and the Broncos will yet again blow a big lead in the division and the Chargers will sneak away with the AFC West crown.
As I mentioned in a previous column, don't bet on it. The Chargers' performance today against the Raiders proved my claim that they are in much worse shape than they were last season.
The Chargers hung on by four in Week One and then squeaked by with an eight point victory in what was a much closer game this week in Week Eight. Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has been playing the position about as bad as it can be played, yet the Raiders have managed to hang with the Chargers in both games this season.
With the exception of last week's blowout of the Chiefs, every one of the Chargers games has been within reach for the opponent in the second half. To me, that sounds a little bit like a team relying on luck more than talent, and that is no way to win a division title.
Take a deep, cleansing breath Broncos fans. The world is not ending, so please stop crying wolf or acting like Chicken Little. It was only one game. This team has overcome too much and achieved too much together to let it all come apart at the seams.
Coach Josh McDaniels will see to it that this team learns from its mistakes and gets back on the winning track. He will continue to preach the "United We Stand, Divided We Fall," method that has worked so well for the New England Patriots this decade.
It's a method I suggest some panicked Broncos fans take to heart this week and beyond.