Denver Broncos vs Tennessee Titans: 4 Things We Learned from Denver's 17-14 Loss
Endless penalties aided the Broncos and an injury to Kenny Britt made the Titans offense less explosive.
Still, even with all the factors that pointed towards victory and the ball in their hands with a chance to go up by two scores, the Broncos could not hold on to the win.
There are no moral victories for Denver this season, but here are a few more things we learned about the team.
The Defense Can Execute a Game Plan
The Broncos set out to limit the ground game and eliminate Kenny Britt. With a little help from injury, that mission was accomplished.
The Broncos again looked impressive against one of the league's most dangerous rushers in Chris Johnson. It is difficult to tell whether that is due to Johnson's lack of preparation for the season or defensive dominance by Denver. Still, there seemed to be little room for any Titans running back and the much-maligned Denver rush defense deserves credit for that.
If a team can execute its defensive game plan, how can it end up losing?
There are many factors at play in that answer. An offense that cannot reach the 20-point plateau is part of it. However, the better question is: Was the game plan developed correctly? Should the Broncos have tried to limit Matt Hasselbeck instead?
In the end, the defense should not shoulder the blame for this loss. It would have been nice to see more pressure, but at the end of the day, the offense has to score.
Denver Cannot Gain a Yard When They Really Need One
Fans have begged for a power running game to return to Denver—and bemoaned the fact that in the red zone, Orton is allowed to pass the ball far too often with little return.
Against the Titans, the Broncos had their chance to stamp a power victory with a short touchdown run and put the game away.
The fans got the wanted three rushes in a row at the goal line...but no touchdown.
The Broncos offensive line is not built to succeed in a scheme like that at the moment. Until the offensive line learns how to win the battle in the trenches, the Broncos' chances of scoring actually decrease as they get closer to the goal line.
Champ Bailey Could Be the Difference Between 1-2 and 2-1
The problem with questioning the defensive game plan is that it was created without Champ Bailey on the field.
It has been said on this site before and will be said many times again: Champ Bailey shuts down one entire side of the field.
If you think that wouldn't have made a difference on Sunday, think again. Matt Hasselbeck is a pro and he proved that, but his job would have been infinitely harder if he had to try to stay away from Bailey while he was making his quick decisions.
The sooner the Broncos can get Bailey healthy again, the sooner this defense can continue making strides toward becoming at least a solid and reliable force for Denver.
The Broncos Didn't Deserve to Win, but They Still Should Have
There is an old saying in the NFL: "If you cannot gain one yard, then you don't deserve to win."
That is absolutely true, but had the Broncos cast their pride and puzzling "killer instinct" aside and kicked the field goal to go up by a touchdown, they very well might have won.
The decision to go for it on fourth down and try to put the game away said all the right things outwardly: The Broncos were going to earn the win. The Broncos were going to seize the opportunity to put the game away. John Fox has confidence in his team.
What was lacking from that equation was a running attack that could do the job.
There are many out there who may still feel like the decision was a good one regardless of the outcome, because it showed that the Broncos were hungry to win. Hunger is not a defense for foolishness.
The Broncos are simply not a good enough team to scoff in the face of points on the board via a field goal—especially when those points make it almost impossible for the team to lose the game in regulation.
Obviously, if that play turns out differently, then Fox is a confident genius. However, it didn't and the Broncos let a chance for a win slip away by showing a brashness that they haven't earned yet.