Holding a three-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game, the Denver Broncos’ defense falters. Broncos lost 22-16 in OT to hated rival Las Vegas Raiders.

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For the third year in a row, and most importantly for Broncos Country, the first time under Josh McDaniels. The Las Vegas Raiders have swept the Denver Broncos. There are three observations that actually make it worse:

  1. Raiders defense holds its first offense faced in 2022 to less than 20 points.
  2. The Broncos’ defense has allowed more than 19 points to one team, the Raiders, now twice.
  3. Derek Carr is the only QB to throw for 300+ yards against the 2022 Broncos’ defense.

I have said ad nauseam on Breakin’ Broncos Podcast that game one in Las Vegas was inexplicable. How this defense can’t seem to defend the Carr/Adams/Jacobs trio is truly mind boggling. This one has me even more appalled. At least in the first game, it was more about the offense being bad, which we have come to expect. This time, the offense was what we expected(bad) but the defense cratered when it mattered most. Unlike when they were able to clinch a victory against San Francisco and Jacksonville. They weren’t able to clinch the dub with a 16-13 lead and less than two minutes remaining.

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Just as infuriating as it has been writing this to this point, it actually can get worse. There is only two running backs in 2022 that have rushed for at least 100 yards against this Denver Broncos defense. They are Travis Etienne of the Jaguars, and Josh Jacobs of the Raiders, who has done it twice. Somehow the Raiders have become the kryptonite for this Broncos super defense. Some may claim it’s a defense tired and left out to dry by a bad offense. Below you will see the Broncos are actually middle of pack averaging 30:00 minutes time of possession per game. Look who sits 4 spots behind them.

Per teamrankings.com:

Denver is only two minutes behind the leader in TOP, the Washington Commanders. Contrary to popular belief, this defense is not “hung out to dry” more so than any other team in the league, and actually are better off than half of them. Where things differ is the Denver offense can’t seem to get past the 16 point mark. This really comes down to one thing, offensive line play. Only one QB has been hit more (sacks + knockdowns) than Russell Wilson (69), and that is Kirk Cousins (74). Cousins has an entire game on Russ to get that 5 hit “lead”.

You can see the top-3 most hit QB’s below per fantasypros.com:

These three QB’s lead offenses that scored a total of 35 points across 12 quarters of professional football in week 11. The only one with a winning record scored 3 of those points (Vikings). As I stated in the Breakin’ Broncos episode linked above, no QB can sustain the onslaught Russell Wilson is facing on a weekly basis. He is trusting his health to the likes of veteran journey-man/depth pieces Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming at the tackles. That is there 2nd string left tackle and 3rd-string right tackle. And a 5th-round rookie 3rd-string center is the only player besides Russ that handles the ball on every snap. They have had 8 different o-line combinations in 10 games. The only player I can see sticking to this roster for 2023 is first-year starter Quinn Meinerz at right guard.

I will go deeper into whether major changes are needed right now in another article later this week. But gut reaction is no, this is not Indy and Jeff Saturday who walked into the best interim HC position possible. This initial “no” also has nothing to do with anything I said here. I stand by my optimism in that article. The Colts have a top-notch o-line, a superstar running back (Jonathan Taylor), budding star WR (Michael Pittman Jr.) and healthy veteran QB who has been to the Super Bowl (Matt Ryan) with a top-notch defense. The Denver Broncos have only 3 of those, QB, WR, and defense. It doesn’t matter how good the play call/design, QB, and WR are if the o-line can’t block. It doesn’t matter who you bring in as an interim coach, it could be Sean Payton or Mike Shanahan, it will not make a difference.

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How will an offense that struggles with communication get better by changing the lingo completely? You can’t install a new offense over half way through the season. These things are not the same and people need to stop trying to equate them. There is no magic wand to fix this Broncos offense. It will take time and patience to get through this season and offseason where the focus needs to be in the trenches. I say trenches, because as I stated earlier, this is not just on the offense. The defensive line deserves as much scrutiny after giving up 100+ rushing yards to Josh Jacobs for the second time this year and 4th time in the last 2 season.

D.J. Jones was a solid signing that lost effectiveness after a concussion against the 49ers in week 3 and some nagging injuries to his shoulder and knee. Dre’Mont Jones has been a revelation in his 3rd-year as a starter and is looking like a pro bowler through 10 games. Outside of that, there really isn’t much that stands out for what was supposed to be a strength of the defense. As good as this defense is, there are cracks that can be exploited. They are 14th in rushing yards against per game (115.3), 14th in sacks (26), and 25th in turnovers forced (10). I hate to jump on the one bright spot this season for the Denver Broncos, but this is a game the offense gave them a chance to win and Ejiro Evero’s squad failed spectacularly. Russell Wilson and Co. played a solid if unspectacular game. Outside of yet another Melvin Gordon fumble, his fifth of the season (one lost), the offense didn’t screw it up as they had outside of their three wins.

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Say what you will about the final play by the Broncos offense that saw them throw the ball and stop the clock for a Raiders squad that was out of timeouts and on the wrong side of the two minute warning. They handed the reigns to the best part of the roster with an 88% chance of winning at the Raiders 22-yard line against the 16th ranked scoring offense. This was Derek Carr not Pat Mahomes. There is no excuse to have Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams being lost in the wash in the two most critical moments of the game. those are literally the only two weapons McDaniels could deploy. And twice this vaunted defense failed.

Call me crazy, but give me another week of Klint Kubiak calling plays, a running back room minus Melvin Gordon, and an o-line with another week to gel as the only second time this season the same five men are expected to start for consecutive weeks against a bad Carolina Panthers squad. Speaking of Panthers and Broncos fans wanting a change. Look at the Panthers season, not the Colts. Once you do that, come back and let me know if you still think a change is necessary.

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