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5 Best and Worst Broncos games of the 2017 season

January 3, 2018 Updated: January 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm
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FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, file photo, Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Denver. In what could be a bounce-back season, Denver swept its first two home games, including a romp past Dallas. They head to Buffalo on Sunday, not the toughest place to play, especially in September, but an away game nonetheless. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

It's time for the 2018 NFL playoffs and for the second consecutive season, the Broncos are not in the mix. Denver had a tumultuous year under rookie head coach Vance Joseph and the team went 5-11, the Broncos' first losing season in seven years. 

The disappointing campaign leaves many questions: What went wrong? Where will the team go from here? Who will be the quarterback of the future for the Denver Broncos? 

But before we turn to next season, let's look back at the five best and five worst games from the Broncos' 2017 season:

5 BEST GAMES

5. Week 1 vs. Chargers DEN 24 LAC 21

Chargers Broncos Football
Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson is down inside the one yard line against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) 

What is it with the Broncos and opening-night drama? Just like the Super Bowl rematch against the Panthers in the first week of 2016, Denver’s first game of 2017 came down to the opposing team missing a field goal at the end. This time Denver faced rival Philip Rivers and the newly relocated Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos got off to a good start, going up 24-7 over the Chargers thanks to quarterback Trevor Siemian who threw a pair of touchdowns to Bennie Fowler and rushed for a third. Then the turnover issue that would plague the Broncos for the entirety of the season showed up for the first time. Los Angeles picked off Siemian on a deflected ball on one possession, and then recovered a Jamaal Charles fumble on Denver’s subsequent possession. The Chargers scored on both turnovers. The Broncos were up 24-21 but Rivers and L.A. had the ball late. Ultimately the Chargers' rally fell short when defensive end Shelby Harris blocked L.A. kicker Younghoe Koo’s would be game-tying field goal from 44 yards.   

Notable Play: Trevor Siemian jukes Joey Bosa en route to endzone  

4. Week 15 at Colts DEN 25 IND 13

Broncos Colts Football
Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) runs for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) 

Things looked bad at the start of the Thursday Night matchup for Denver. Siemian threw an early interception which led to a Colts’ touchdown. On the ensuing possession, the Broncos marched down the field only to settle for a field goal attempt which kicker Brandon McManus missed, his eighth miss of the season. To add injury to insult, Siemian hurt his shoulder after a sack on third down and left the game. Enter Brock Osweiler, the Broncos prodigal backup quarterback. Osweiler completed 12 of 17 passes for 194 yards, two scores and he had a 18-yard rushing touchdown as well.    

Notable Play: Brock Osweiler dives for endzone on 18-yard score  

3. Week 4 vs. Raiders DEN 16 OAK 10

Broncos Raiders Football
Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) fights Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) 

This game had it all: A sunny day at home against the rival Raiders, a sick one-handed catch and run for a touchdown by tight end A.J. Derby and some late drama culminating in a game-sealing interception for Denver as Oakland was driving down the field for the win. This victory was just what the doctor ordered after the Broncos suffered a bizarre loss to the Bills in Buffalo in Week 3. McManus came up big for the Broncos, going three for four in field goals and scoring Denver’s only points in the contest after Derby’s first-quarter touchdown.

Notable Plays: A.J. Derby's amazing one-handed catch 

Justin Simmons ices the game for Broncos, intercepts E.J. Manuel 

2. Week 14 vs. Jets DEN 23 NYJ 0

JETS BRONCOS FOOTBALL
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) celebrates his touchdown at the end zone in the first quarter as the Denver Broncos took on the New York Jets at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday December 10, 2017 in Denver. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette). 

After eight long weeks of being on the wrong side of the scoreboard, the Broncos got their first win in two months Dec. 10 by shutting out the Jets. The Broncos’ last shutout was also against the Jets in 2005. Led by receiver Demaryius Thomas’ eight catches for 93 yards and a score, Brandon McManus’ three field goals (one from 53 yards) and the defense holding New York to 100 yards of total offense, Denver got a much-needed win in front of a home crowd.

Notable Play: Trevor Siemian throws off his back foot for a Demaryius Thomas touchdown

 

1. Week 2 vs. Cowboys DEN 42 DAL 17

APTOPIX Cowboys Broncos Football
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) 

It feels good to get a win. It’s even better when that win is at the expense of America’s team. The Broncos dominated the Cowboys from start to finish, Siemian threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns, and running back C.J. Anderson rushed 25 times for 118 yards and a score. The Broncos were 2-0 and had just demolished the Cowboys, a top playoff contender from the 2016 season. At the time, the Broncos looked like they were once again an elite team in the NFL.  

Notable plays: C.J. Anderson bursts through Dallas defense for a 23-yard touchdown

Aqib Talib’s 103-yard pick six 

5 WORST GAMES 

5. Week 10 vs. Patriots NE 41 DEN 16

Broncos Patriots
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) is pursued by Denver Broncos inside linebacker Todd Davis (51). The Denver Broncos were defeated by the New England Patriots 41-16 played on Sunday Night Football at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium on Sunday, November 12, 2017. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Denver has been a tough place to play for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Recently, Denver has beaten New England in two AFC title games, the second in 2015 en route to winning Super Bowl 50. Despite struggling last season, Denver’s defense held Brady to his lowest passing yard total for a single game in 2016 at 188 yards, and were just one of two teams who didn’t allow him to throw a touchdown pass in a game. The Broncos weren't as stifling in 2017. Denver’s special teams units gave the home crowd fits all night. The Patriots recovered a muffed punt by returner Isaiah Mckenzie, returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown and blocked a Denver punt in the first half. The mishaps lead to 20-6 Patriots advantage. Brady took care of the rest, throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats put up more than 40 points on the Broncos for the first time since 2014.

Notable Play: Broncos allow 103-yard kickoff return to Dion Lewis

4. Week 9 at Eagles PHI 51  DEN 23

Broncos Eagles Football
Denver Broncos' Brock Osweiler (17) is tackled by Philadelphia Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez) 

Denver was on a three-game losing streak and the team turned to Osweiler who replaced a slumping Siemian. Osweiler would make his 2017 debut for his old team against the best team in football in the surging Philadelphia Eagles. Then MVP candidate (if not favorite) Carson Wentz threw for four touchdowns against Denver and the Eagles’ backfield added three more scores and nearly 200 rushing yards to wallop the Broncos. The astonishing thing here is that the Broncos' defense was getting beat. Cornerback Aqib Talib got burned on a 32-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery beat Talib again in the endzone and caught Wentz’s fourth touchdown pass in the middle of the third quarter. The 50-burger the Eagles dropped on the Broncos was an anomaly for team history, let alone this vaunted defense. The Broncos hadn’t allowed more than 50 points to an opponent since Week 7 of 2010 against the Oakland Raiders.

Notable Play: Alshon Jeffery burns Aqib Talib for a 32-yard touchdown

 

3. Week 8 at Chiefs KC 29 DEN 19

Broncos Chiefs Football
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris (84) can't hold on to a pass while defended by Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart (26) and linebacker Brandon Marshall (54), during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The Chiefs won, 29-19. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga) 

Both the Broncos and the Chiefs entered Week 8’s Monday Night contest having suffered back-to-back losses. Denver was sitting at .500 at 3-3 while Kansas City was at 5-2. The Broncos needed a win to keep pace in the AFC West. What they got was a trainwreck.  The team was a mess in all three phases of the game, Siemian threw three interceptions, two in the first half, Charles fumbled the ball for a Chiefs’ scoop and score in his first game back at Kansas City, and the defense surrendered 133 receiving yards to stud tight end Travis Kelce. Also, McKenzie muffed a punt which led to a Kansas City field goal. That’s five turnovers for those keeping track at home. The Broncos were bludgeoned at Arrowhead Stadium and worse, Siemian’s continued poor play warranted his benching which was the beginning of a quarterback carousel  that would haunt the team the rest of the season.

Notable Play: Trevor Siemian throws across his body for third interception of the night

2. Week 7 at Los Angeles Chargers LAC 21 DEN 0

Broncos Chargers Football
Denver Broncos wide receiver Hunter Sharp (15) is tackled by Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) 

Any hopes the Broncos’ dud  against the Giants in Week 6 was merely due to the team coming out flat after bye week were dashed when Denver was shutout for the first time in 25 years by division rival Los Angeles in Week 7. The Broncos’ offense was anemic once again and Siemian turned in another bad performance, completing 25 of 35 attempts for 207 yards and an interception. He also fumbled twice, losing one. The special teams unit also caused problems, as the Broncos allowed a 65-yard touchdown on a punt return. The issues on offense and special teams wiped out  a valiant but “turnover-less” effort from Denver’s defense which held Los Angeles to just 263 total yards.

Notable Play: Travis Benjamin returns punt 65 yards for a touchdown

 1. Week 6 vs. Giants  NYG 23 DEN 10

Giants Broncos Football
New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa (26) runs with the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney) 

Let’s set the scene: The Broncos had won three of their first four games prior to a Week 5 bye. They returned in Week 6 for Sunday Night Football against an 0-5 Giants team that had just lost star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for the season. Receivers Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were also out for the contest. By all accounts, this should have been an easy win for the Broncos in primetime. It was the polar opposite. Siemian threw two first-half interceptions, one a pick-six by cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The defense that had previously held Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch to pedestrian numbers, suddenly was getting gashed by...Orleans Darkwa? The Giants back provided New York with a much-needed spark in the run game, gaining an impressive 117 rushing yards on 21 carries. The boos rained down on the home team that night and at the end, the Giants won their first game in a head scratcher.

Notable Plays: Orleans Darkwa gashes Denver defense for 47 yards

Janoris Jenkins picks off Trevor Siemian for touchdown 

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