Payton, Surtain, Mims and Broncos Country at fault for latest loss
Dec 24, 2023, 11:10 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2023, 8:05 am
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We interrupt our regular programming to provide you with this special announcement… someone other than Russell Wilson is to blame for the Broncos latest failure.
On Sunday night, Denver had a golden opportunity to catapult themselves back into the playoff race. Earlier in the weekend, the Bengals, Colts, Jaguars and Texans had lost, moving them all to seven losses, putting them on par with the Broncos. A win over the Patriots, a team they were favored to beat by a touchdown, would make the postseason a real possibility in the Mile High City for the first time since the 2015 season.
And then, he Broncos laid an egg. On national television. With everything to play for.
As usual, the finger of blame is going to be pointed at Russell Wilson. Denver’s quarterback is the low-hanging fruit; he’s the easy target.
But he was good on Sunday night. The QB finished 25-of-37 for 238 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 103.2 on the night. That’ll usually earn a team a win.
Wilson was better than those numbers, however. Trailing 23-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the quarterback led two touchdown drives, capped with two two-point conversions, to draw the Broncos even at 23-23. He was on the cusp of pulling off a Christmas miracle at Empower Field, until the real culprits showed up.
That’s right. There are people to blame for Denver’s 26-23 loss. There were folks at fault for the devastating loss.
It starts with Marvin Mims. With 1:34 to play in the third quarter, the Broncos were trailing the Patriots by a score of 9-7. Six seconds later, it was 23-7.
Mike Gesicki’s 11-yard scoring reception started the momentum swing. Mims fumbling the ensuring kickoff, which turned into a Cody Davis touchdown, made things go from bad to worse.
The Patriots have trouble scoring. Giving them free points keeps them alive.
The Broncos have trouble scoring. Putting them in a hole feels like a no-win situation.
But it didn’t end there. The rookie wide receiver wasn’t the only goat on Sunday night.
Sean Payton is also to blame. The Broncos head coach completely mismanaged the end of the game.
With the score tied at 23-23, the Patriots took possession with 58 seconds to play at their own 19-yard line. Given that they only had one timeout to work with, New England was content to play for overtime.
Payton wasn’t, however. Instead, Denver’s head coach was trying to get the ball back for one last drive in regulation.
If the Patriots had done nothing on first down, using one of his three timeouts would’ve been smart. After Ezekial Elliot ran for six yards to set up second-and-four, however, it was a foolish move. Stopping the clock on third-and-three was equally as misguided.
Had Denver stoned the Patriots on first down, a timeout would’ve been in order. Facing second-and-nine, a punt would’ve been the likely result of the drive. But with second-and-four as the down-and-distance, the odds didn’t suggest that the Broncos would stop the Patriots.
Payton didn’t care. He called two timeouts, extending the fourth quarter. The Patriots took advantage and drove for the game-winning field goal.
Had the Broncos not called timeouts, New England would’ve played for overtime. Given their offensive ineptitude, as well as the fact that Denver had scored two touchdowns in under six minutes, going into an extra period would’ve been the smart move.
In overtime, a field goal can’t beat you. At the end of regulation, it can.
And it bit the Broncos. Chad Ryland drilled a 56-yard field goal with two seconds left to dash Denver’s playoff hopes.
He never should’ve been in that position. But it’s not only Payton’s fault that he was on the field at that moment.
With 47 second to play in the game, The Patriots faced third-and-three from their own 26-yard line. If they didn’t convert, the Broncos would have a chance to win the game. If they did, a game-winning field goal suddenly became an option.
On the most-important play of the season for the Broncos, Bailey Zappe went right at Patrick Surtain. New England’s QB threw in the direction of Denver’s best defensive player. The result didn’t go Denver’s way.
DeVante Parker hauled in a 27-yard reception. It kept the drive alive. It allowed the Patriots to move into scoring position, which they capitalized on.
Five plays later, New England was kicking a field goal to win 26-23. The Broncos playoff chances were effectively done.
Surtain is supposed to be an elite player. Denver picked him over Micah Parsons, a versatile linebacker who makes plays when it matters most.
The Broncos elite cornerback failed to do the same. Playing a position that might only get challenged a handful of times per game, Surtain has to be great when it matters most; he wasn’t.
But it doesn’t end there. In fact, the culprits to the loss aren’t just relegated to the field.
Broncos Country is also to blame. The crowd at Empower Field on Christmas Eve was embarrassing.
Officially, there were just over 60,000 people on hand for the game. That’s more than 16,000 no-shows.
That type of apathy used to be unheard of in Denver. And it only got worse. By the time the Patriots took the field with the scored tied 23-23, half of the stadium was empty.
It would’ve been nice to have a raucous home crowd on hand to disrupt Zappe and company. Instead, Denver’s “faithful” were more interested in beating traffic on Christmas Eve.
Add it all up and the Broncos suffered their most-disappointing loss in years. It was a lump of coal in everyone’s stocking. And it was avoidable.
If Marvin Mims doesn’t turn a nine-point deficit into a two-touchdown lead for the Patriots, Denver probably wins. If Sean Payton manages his timeouts better, the Broncos would’ve likely won in overtime. If Pat Surtain makes a play with the game on the line, the playoffs are still a possibility. And if the fans stick it out until the end, Christmas morning is happier in the Mile High City.
Russell Wilson will likely get all of the blame. He shouldn’t.
The quarterback should’ve been the hero on Sunday night. He wasn’t. In fact, the QB was once again the least of the Broncos problems.