The Denver Broncos have made a habit this season of playing games very close, and giving viewers and fans reason to watch a full 60 minutes of football without completely writing them off.
The Broncos have lost three of their last four games in more or less the same fashion. Bearing an oddly striking resemblance to the Tim Tebow led Broncos of 2011, this year’s Broncos, led by Peyton Manning play an atrociously slow and mistake ridden first two or three quarters of football. Once things get dire, Manning and his talented receiving core are able to make short work of three score deficits, but have come up short every time thanks to mistakes or missed opportunities.
In games against the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, the Broncos were able to erase huge deficits only to fail to stop both teams late in the game on third down, which, had they been able to do so, would have given the ball back to Manning who could have won both those games. Because of missed opportunities Manning didn’t even have the chance.
Against the New England Patriots things were no different. In fact, this game embodied the problems that Denver has had this year, almost perfectly. An early fumble by Demaryius Thomas (reminiscent of last week’s drop against the Oakland Raiders) and giving up a third and sixteen to a Danny Woodhead run was only the beginning of Denver’s issues in this game. After cutting a 31-7 deficit to only 10 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Broncos lost two fumbles, one from Manning and one from Willis McGahee. To make matters worse, McGahee dropped one of the easiest and simplest throws of the game that would have converted a fourth down. It was really just a toss, and in the situation the Broncos were in, they desperately needed that conversion.
If you count the third down conversion by Woodhead, that’s five times the Broncos gave the ball back to the Patriots when they should have had a chance to put points on the board. Mistakes and missed opportunities cost Denver this game, as they had every chance to at least keep pace with New England, yet were unable to capitalize.
The Broncos have a lot of talent on their roster, and at this point there is little doubt being cast on Manning’s capabilities. However the mistakes need to be cut down. Throwing three interceptions in the first quarter or giving up the ball three times in the fourth isn’t going to win you any ball games. Until the Broncos can stop making those kinds of errors, and start taking advantage of opportunities when it counts, they’ll have a tough time beating teams like the Falcons, Texans and Patriots.