This is the worst a 6-2 record has ever felt.
If you've been following football this season, you'll know that the Denver Broncos were everyone's biggest surprise entering their bye week at 6-0. Many analysts even predicted an insulting 3-13 record for the squad.
The Broncos were riding a wave of adrenaline and energy, mixed with some luck and some big-time play from just about everyone on the roster.
Unfortunately though, every wave eventually "breaks." It happened to the 2007 Patriots at the most inauspicious of times, Super Bowl 42. And then, in week 8 of 2009, it happened for the Broncos.
The energy ran out over the bye week. The edge that Josh McDaniels, Mike Nolan, and the Broncos coaching staff had over the competition went dull.
Suddenly, the offense couldn't put up any points. The revitalized defense, although putting in their best effort, spent far too much time on the field.
During the second half of their Monday Night game against Pittsburgh, the Broncos offense held the ball for six minutes. That means the defense was on the field for roughly 24 game minutes.
People who want to assign blame might point fingers at Kyle Orton, who threw three interceptions, two of which came at critical points in the game. They might point fingers at McDaniels, who clearly has not prepared his players well enough for these past two games.
While we're at it, why not point fingers at newly-acquired punter Mitch Berger, who averaged a pitiful 33.4 yards on seven punts.
As good as it may feel to make someone the "goat," this recent slide is no individual's fault. Orton needs a running game to be successful in the system. He does not have the arm strength or poise to beat a team like the Steelers on his own.
He has thrived in the system that McDaniels has implemented for him. But this system includes a running game, and 27 total yards on the ground is not a "running game."
It's time for this team to show what they are really made of. Is this the year they return to being legitimate contenders, or is it yet another strong start that quickly turns into a desperate attempt to bail out a sinking ship?
And, don't look now, but the Chargers and their ever-despisable quarterback Philip Rivers are one game back.
The veteran leadership is there. Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, and even newly acquired nickelback Ty Law have all been here before. They need to be talking to the rookies and younger players to keep their spirits up.
Luckily for this team, they have an opportunity to get back on track against the Washington Redskins next weekend, one of the clear-cut " train wrecks" of the NFL.
The Denver schedule is such that they do not get too many breaks. It is imperative to take this one and capitalize on it, because the following week in "Charges" San Diego.
The Broncos are not dead. They are 6-2, and we have seen what they're capable of. They've beaten the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, and those Chargers.
This is a good team that has lost track of who they are, and have fallen out of rhythm. They were riding a wave, it broke, and now they're stuck somewhere in between. But great teams find a way to get back up, find another wave and take it for all it's worth.
They've felt winning and now they've felt losing. Now they know that winning doesn't come that easily in the NFL.
It's time to wake up, and it's time to step up.