The Denver Broncos wrapped up an awful week off the field with a miserable performance on it.
First came the rumors that a handful of players would be on the trading block, then came the controversial Halloween party thrown by Von Miller, after which backup quarterback Chad Kelley was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing and summarily cut from the roster.
Throw in the rift that has developed within team owner Pat Bowlen’s family and, well, the 30-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday may not have been the worst thing to happen to them all week.
Might have been the most disappointing, though.
The Broncos (3-5) got a big performance from undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay in his first career start, including 95 yards and a touchdown. Case Keenum threw for 262 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and the defense managed to hold Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt to 50 yards on 16 carries.
But the Broncos also committed a series of frustrating mistakes that scuttled any chance of pulling off the upset.
They were flagged 10 times for 83 yards — though in reality, those numbers could have been much higher had there not been offsetting and declined penalties. Keenum threw a late pick as the Broncos were trying to rally, and a lost fumble late proved just as costly.
“I’m tired of it, man. I’m fed up with it,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said. “We’re beating ourselves every week. I can’t even count the number of penalties we had. We can’t do that if we want to come in here and beat the Chiefs.”
Harris said the Broncos were aware referee Shawn Hochuli’s crew throws more flags that just about any other crew in the NFL, and he tried to adjust accordingly. But it wasn’t evident by the number of yellow flags that littered the turf all afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We’ll get a defensive stop and penalty. We get in a good situation, penalty,” he said. “We just kill ourselves. We get a nice drive going, 20-yard play, penalty. Every time.”
Now, a team that started the season with wins over Seattle and Oakland has lost five of its past six, and it needs a quick turnaround to avoid its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72.
“There were a lot of times when we had some good momentum, some good starts to drives, and self-inflicted wounds,” Keenum said.
“That’s nearly impossible to beat a team like the Chiefs when you’re hurting yourself like that. We’ll watch and learn from it. That’s not an excuse.”
The Broncos had excuses available for their poor play , even if they were loath to use them.
Harris heard his name among those swirling in trade rumors, along with fellow cornerback Brandon Roby and wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. And with Kelly booted from the team, it would have been Kevin Hogan under center if anything happened to Keenum.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph will no doubt begin feeling a bit more heat, and even general manager John Elway might hear some grumbling despite all the goodwill he’s earned over the years.
There is even dysfunction within the team’s ownership structure after Bowlen’s brother, Bill, filed a complaint in district court seeking to remove the trustees who have been running the franchise since 2014, when the 74-year-old Pat Bowlen stepped down because of Alzheimer’s disease.
Now another loss in a season rapidly filling with them.
Miller still thinks the season can be turned around, beginning with a home game against Houston. That is followed by tough games against the Chargers and Steelers, but then comes a soft finishing stretch that includes games against the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders.
“It’s surprising, especially the way we started,” Miller said of the uphill battle Denver faces over the season’s second half.
“Seeing the team we put out there every week, it’s surprising. We have a great team, we have great coaching. We’ve got all the ingredients that win football games. We’re just not doing it. We’re an undisciplined football team. It’s just extremely frustrating.”
Source: The Associated Press