Already bad, the Broncos devolved into a embarrassment that ruined Christmas

Dec 25, 2022, 8:57 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2022, 12:31 am

Russell Wilson...

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A great many people far and wide who bleed orange and blue carved out a significant portion of their Christmas to watch the Broncos face the Los Angeles Rams.

Holiday time is precious. It’s irreplaceable. It’s when friends and family come together. And the Broncos wasted three hours of that time for an incalculable amount of their fans.

Or maybe it wasn’t three hours. Perhaps you changed the channel to “A Christmas Story,” the NBA or something else. Perhaps a Yule log on a fire.

Even a test pattern would have been more worthy of one’s viewing time than Sunday’s 51-14 debacle.

The Broncos absorbed their most lopsided defeat in over 12 years. They surrendered over 50 points for the first time in five years and just the fourth time in the last 30 years.

And that’s just the beginning.

They missed bushels of tackles. Russell Wilson served up three interceptions, including two on back-to-back attempts that the Rams converted into touchdowns, seizing a 17-0 lead before the Broncos’ $245-million man completed a pass.

“It starts with coaching,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said, “and then the execution out there on the field.”

The Broncos’ execution — from start to finish and then even in the postgame handshakes — was worthy of the purported old John McKay quip: “I’m in favor of it.”

Shoot, the Broncos didn’t even appear to know where they were on the field. After one first-quarter reception, wide receiver Courtland Sutton shot up and pointed toward the end zone, making the universally-known gesture of earning a first down.

Sutton was 10 yards short.

The miscues were to the Broncos as sliming is to Nickelodeon. Frequent and expected.

And some mistakes came from unexpected sources. At one point in the second quarter, the usually-reliable Josey Jewell missed three consecutive tackles.

When even your steadiest players crumble, it usually is a leading indicator of total collapse. But signs of the defense’s descent into disaster were evident in prior weeks.

In Week 12, Carolina gashed the Broncos for 185 rushing yards. Most came in the same manner as the Rams’ 158-yard trampling Sunday, through holes that seems as large as SoFi Stadium’s godzillatron scoreboard. A week earlier, Derek Carr zapped the Broncos with downfield strikes, showing what could be accomplished against Denver’s usually stout secondary.

And of course, there were the end-game letdowns against the Colts, Raiders and Ravens, when the defense bent and eventually snapped under the weight of carrying the offense.

On Christmas, the Broncos defense wasted as much time as your average 6-year old tearing into a stack of goodies from Santa Claus. They simply broke from the start and never put it back together.

Consider this: Los Angeles never punted. Their first eight drives ended in scores. The ninth was a game-ending kneeldown.

It was the first time in 50 years that the Broncos failed to force a single punt in a regular-season game.


Taking it to another level was how things devolved beyond actual football.

In the third quarter, left guard Dalton Risner shoved Brett Rypien. Latavius Murray stepped in and shoved Risner, defending his backup QB. Cam Fleming then got between the two of them, with Freddie Swain also playing peacemaker while Montrell Washington guided Rypien away.

An apology followed.

“Five minutes later, we made up,” Risner said. “He was frustrated with what was going on out there on the field. I’m frustrated with it, as well.

“… We both came up to each other, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have gotten so mad,’ and he said the same thing. Loved it out, hugged it out.”

But another explosion happened after the game. Edge rusher Randy Gregory — whose day to that point included a roughing-the-passer penalty — hit Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi during the postgame handshakes. Aboushi hit him back.

Gregory didn’t want to talk after the game, but as he left the locker room, said to media, “Y’all wanna know if I hit him in the mouth? I did.”

The video showed it.

“I think that they’re upset for all the losing. We all are,” Hackett said.

“For every one of us, it’s unacceptable. That’s not what we’re about.”

But here’s the thing: When you’re 4-11, losing IS what the team is about.

The Broncos are a bad team ending a miserable season.

But on Christmas Day, they became something far worse: a shambolic, holiday-destroying embarrassment.



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Already bad, the Broncos devolved into a embarrassment that ruined Christmas