ENGLEWOOD • There’s one thing nobody in the NFL does better than the Denver Broncos. The Broncos’ 27-23 loss at Minnesota marked the league-leading fourth time they’ve squandered a fourth-quarter lead this season.
“We have to learn to finish,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “We are a young team learning how .”
The Broncos (3-7) have lost three games in the final 22 seconds, including two as time expired as they surrendered field-goal drives in two-point losses to the Bears, Jaguars and Colts.
On Sunday, they became the first team in five years to blow a halftime lead of 20 or more points.
They had their chances to rectify their second-half collapse but three Brandon Allen passes into the end zone from the Vikings 4 in the final 10 seconds all fell incomplete. On one of them, cornerback Trae Waynes grabbed Tim Patrick’s face mask but drew no flag, and on the game’s final play, safety Jayron Kearse had a fistful of tight end Noah Fant’s jersey but likewise wasn’t whistled.
The Broncos know officials are loath to penalize such tussling in these situations, so what really drew their wrath were mistakes in a collective meltdown:
• Defensive miscommunications that allowed Minnesota to score TDs on all four second-half drives after going 0-for-8 in the first half.
• Clock mismanagement at the end that deprived them of one more shot at the end zone.
• And veteran kicker Brandon McManus missing on a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter .
“Well, you’re always concerned when a guy misses a kick, especially one I believe it was 42 and the operation was good, there was no flaws there,” coach Vic Fangio said Monday.
The abundance of close calls hasn’t crushed his team, Fangio said.
“These guys like to come to work. They’re giving us great effort,” at practice , he said. “You can see the effort that we’re giving on Sundays.”
It doesn’t get any easier next week when the Broncos travel to Buffalo, where the resurgent Bills are 7-3 .
Allen gets another start as the Broncos head into the second week of practice for rookie Drew Lock, who has been on IR all season after spraining his right thumb in August.
“We’ll continue to do what we did last week, get him some reps both on the scout team and get him some reps with the offense and see how he’s progressing,” Fangio said, adding that activating Lock this week to serve as Allen’s backup was “unlikely but possible.”
Fullback Andy Janovich’s dislocated right elbow will land him on injured reserve five weeks after he signed a three-year extension.