Stout defense, pound-the-rock philosophy fails Broncos

Dec 6, 2021, 6:00 AM

It doesn’t necessarily take a sharp football mind to understand that if you stop Patrick Mahomes from being productive, you’ve got a shot at toppling the high-octane Kansas City Chiefs offense.

Nor does it stretch the imagination to think a 100-yard rushing effort from your talented rookie running back wouldn’t yield at least a solid chance at upsetting the reigning AFC champions.

Nonetheless, an impressive effort by the Denver Broncos defense and a 102-yard game from Javonte Williams (which included a receiving touchdown) failed to matter much in a 22-9 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.

Denver managed to hold Mahomes and company to just 16 offensive points while handing the former MVP his worst regular season outing to date.

Mahomes finished with 15-of-29 passing for 184 yards, no touchdowns and a pick, yielding the second‐lowest passer rating (57.3) of his career. Only his 52.3 rating in Super Bowl LV against Tampa Bay ranked lower.

Meanwhile, in his first NFL start, Williams carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards (4.4 yards per attempt) to go with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. His 178 total yards are the most by a rookie running back this season (third most among all rookies) and the most by a Broncos rookie since Clinton Portis had 246 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in December 2002.

But it doesn’t matter how well the Broncos pounded the rock and played stout defense on Sunday, scoring just nine points against the AFC West leaders won’t cut it.

“We have to be able to score more points, no matter who you are playing, especially the Chiefs at home,” Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said after the game.

So, it begs the question if Denver can run the ball affectively and handle Mahomes and Kansas City to the tune of 16 points, perhaps it’s a matter of the philosophy not working?

For example, at the end of the first half, the Broncos squandered a 20-play, 88-yard drive that took up 11 minutes and 7 seconds — first by failing to punch the ball into the end zone and then coming away with no points after a failed fourth-and-goal attempt.

“I am comfortable with that decision,” Fangio said. “We had converted a couple of fourth downs to keep it going. One was fourth-and-7, I believe. You guys just got done grilling me about the points. You have to score touchdowns to beat this team.”

It’s hard to disagree with that logic, at least the part about needing to score touchdowns to beat Kansas City. But 16 points is a deficit a winning football team should be able to overcome, even if they’re not finding the end zone.

Pounding the rock and playing stout defense is exactly what the Broncos did on Sunday in Kansas City, yet they were unable to capitalize in one of the club’s biggest games since Super Bowl 50.

And that leaves just a few stones left to be turned over in the search for the winning way, including the offensive play calling and the quarterback performance.

To right the ship, Denver must take a long, hard look at its quarterback and its offensive coordinator. And unless meaningful changes are enacted, the Broncos will continue to be mired in mediocrity.



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