Broncos’ task on Monday night: Show that KC win was for real
Nov 13, 2023, 11:10 AM | Updated: 3:06 pm
BUFFALO — In the recent history of the Broncos during the post-Super Bowl 50 “World of Suck” era, they have not lacked for the occasional big win over a contender.
Two stand out in particular. First, there was the 2019 beatdown of the playoff-bound Houston Texans in Drew Lock’s second-career start. Two years later, the Broncos throttled the Dallas Cowboys, taking a 30-0 lead before the Cowboys scored two window-dressing, garbage touchdowns for the final score.
In each case, the Broncos turned around and faced another playoff-bound team the following game. And they face-planted. Neither game — a 2019 trip to Kansas City and a 2021 home contest against Philadelphia — was close.
Any team capture lightning in a bottle and topple a contender once. Recent Broncos teams showed that. But doing it twice in a row? That’s what offers the sign that the restoration work made on the club might be headed someplace.
Which is why right tackle Mike McGlinchey — himself a part of the San Francisco 49ers’ late-2010s turnaround — understands that one win, even as cathartic as the one over the Chiefs, doesn’t have true punch unless the team follows it up.
“You can’t start saying something like, ‘We’ve beaten the world’ after two wins,” McGlinchey said. “And I think we’re starting to believe. And I think that’s the only thing that matters, is that this team believes it can win, and when it gets in those moments, it doesn’t back down, it doesn’t cower, it doesn’t emotionally check out.”
And that is something to ail the Broncos in recent years: Retreating and fading when matters got tough. Look no further than the Week 2 defeat to Washington, when the Broncos crumpled once Washington got momentum in the second quarter, ultimately falling victim to a 32-3 run despite exploding to a 21-3 early lead.
For the team as it stood then, such a margin was fragile.
Six weeks later against Kansas City, the Broncos remained sturdy even as the Chiefs had chances to get back into the game.
“It’s, ‘All right, we got this, we can do this, we trust in our coaching, we trust what the call is,’ and you go execute it to the best of your ability with fire in your gut. And I think that’s what this is becoming,” McGlinchey said. “I think that’s the only way to have success in this league, is to play emotionally strong and enthusiastic football. Especially in those moments of a two-minute drill, we’re down six with four (minutes) to go — that’s what you live for. You have to adopt the mindset of, ‘This is why I’m here. This is why I play this game, and what an opportunity this is and what a story it’s gonna be when we go down and score this damn touchdown.’
“And I think that once we continue to believe that — and the experience that we get winning those games like we had the last two weeks keeps mounting — I think that’s when things start to gel altogether.”
The question now is this: Will it gel again on a blustery night in western New York?
Consecutive games lost by the Broncos immediately after defeating a team that qualified for that season’s postseason. And given that the Chiefs are a safe bet to make their ninth-straight playoff appearance after hitting their bye week 7-2, one surmises that the Broncos are in this scenario once again.
In three of those five games, the Broncos faced playoff-bound teams. They lost each time — in 2019 to Kansas City after shutting out Tennessee and again at Kansas City after a domination in Houston, and again in 2021 when they faced Philadelphia seven days after trouncing Dallas.
Now, obviously, this point could be moot if Buffalo misses the postseason — which isn’t impossible, given how daunting the Bills’ schedule remains. But Buffalo is 52-22 in the regular season since 2019 — a span in which the Broncos are 27-47.
A triumph Monday WILL mean something, even though the Bills are injured and flailing a bit.
That is the record of Sean Payton-coached teams after the bye since the 2009 season. Payton-led sides are 10-6 overall after bye weeks — but that, of course includes the three-straight post-bye games the New Orleans Saints dropped from 2006-08.
Those defeats left Payton foraging for answers.
“Our record after the bye was like, ‘Gosh,’” Payton said. “Andy Reid was in Philadelphia, and I called Andy up. I said, ‘What are you doing?’. Andy was, like, 9-0 after the bye.”
Reid’s Eagles teams eventually reached 13-0 after bye weeks before a loss in 2012, his final season before he moved to Kansas City.
“Andy said, ‘Look, I get them out of here after Monday, and if they win the game, sometimes I don’t even have them come in Monday,’” Payton recalled. “I said, ‘What about the coaches?’ He said, ‘I do the same thing.’”
With the NFL being a league in which best practices end up mimicked to the most minute detail, Payton followed suit. And post-bye defeats turned into victories.
“We looked at who was doing a good job with it,” Payton said. “Andy was the one that kind of really told me what he was doing, so I’ve implemented that since.”
Which is why Payton gathered his Broncos for one day after their 24-9 stunner over Kansas City, and then let them scatter for a week.
That is the winning percentage of teams playing on Monday Night Football after bye weeks — 46-46 all-time — so there is nothing to be gleaned from that.
However, it is interesting that teams playing on the road in this scenario are better than those at home; those clubs are 25-22. That compares with a 221-298 record — a .426 success rate — for road teams on MNF not coming off byes.