DENVER — There is time to make amends, but so far George Paton has let the Broncos down.

He let Jerry Jeudy down, Courtland Sutton down, Tim Patrick down. He let you down, too.

When the Broncos general manager passed on a handful of quarterback prospects in his first draft here, Paton didn’t read the room. Didn’t read the roster, either. The Bengals beat the Broncos 15-10 Sunday. Question is, would the score have been reversed if Paton had drafted Mac Jones or Justin Fields in the first round of the draft way back in April? Who knows?

But what I do know is the Bengals left Empower Field at Mile High with more than a timely win that should catapult a cool young roster into the playoffs. They left with hope for a bright future. Cincinnati had quarterback Joe Burrow, and the Broncos did not. That’s it. That's the story. The Broncos have jack squat at quarterback. Now Cincinnati has playoff hopes, Denver does not. 

That's it. That's the story.

“We’re not out,” Vic Fangio said after.

Appreciate the optimism, a rare trait these days. But if the Broncos are not out, they can see out from Section 510. Even with an expanded bracket, the AFC playoff picture looks like the Interstate 25 at 5 o’clock. There are seven playoff spots. The Broncos (7-7) are the No. 12 “seed” right now, and Nos. 8, 9 and 10 hold a tiebreaker because they all beat the Broncos.

Tim Tebow’s not walking through that door. They’re out. And that’s a bummer, because a Broncos defense that limits Burrow and the Bengals to 15 points, Justin Herbert and the Chargers to 13 points, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to 16 points, should not be out with three games left. But the Broncos are (all but) out with three games left because they don’t have a quarterback. Human nature turns easy equations into Calculus, but their perennial predicament truly is as simple as that.

His numbers on Sunday don’t show it, but Burrow is really stinkin’ good. Instead of making the big plays, he never made a bad play. Like, not one. He threw for 157 yards and a touchdown, no biggie, but it was one snap that showed why the Bengals have a bright future and the Broncos have highly paid veteran Justin Simmons saying, “That one hurt.”

Here was the situation, if you have the stomach: One-possession game, third-and-10 for the Bengals, under 3 minutes left. Burrow zipped a 15-yard, first-down pass to Tyler Boyd — who was being covered by Patrick Surtain II. Surtain II is talented, a future Pro Bowler for sure. But most of the time a good QB beats a good DB.

And Paton drafted a good DB instead of a good QB in his first draft. He let the Broncos down, and right now it looks like the Broncos wasted a season with a solid roster. Maybe they catch fire, but that’s what it looks like. They wasted a season with a solid roster because they drafted scared, because they opted for the safe route in drafting a cornerback over a quarterback.

If you’re scared, get a dog. This wasting-seasons-with-OK quarterbacks stuff is for the dogs.

Biggest game of the year, the Broncos offense scored 10 points. There is no planet where Jerry Jeudy should finish a football game with zero catches. No Pee Wee game, flag football game, intramural football game, Madden game.

And Jerry Jeudy had zero catches in an NFL game.

Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton had five catches. That's a little better. In the four games since the Broncos gave $90 million to Patrick and Sutton, they have 15 catches, total. That’s less than four per game. That's bad economics.

George Paton’s a smart guy, so there must be a master quarterback plan in the works. I hope.

Otherwise why would you give $90 million to Patrick and Sutton and stand pat with Jeudy finishing with zero catches? That doesn’t make sense, and Paton seems like a sensible guy.

“I think it’s everything,” Fangio said of the broken passing game. “We have to do a better job of getting open. We have to do a better job of scheming to get open. We have to do a better job of scheming to get balance so the passing game has a better chance to succeed.”

Vic’s being nice. The Broncos need a quarterback, and he knows it. Paton let Fangio down, too.

It says a ton about Teddy Bridgewater that 58 players, by my count, huddled around him when Bridgewater suffered a scary injury in the third quarter. They were players from both teams. They were players who love Teddy Bridgewater as a man, because he’s an awesome man. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital with movement in all of his extremities.

So there's some good news.

Fangio speculated that Bridgewater has another concussion, which would be his second this season. Because Bridgewater is an awesome man, here’s hoping he sits out the rest of this season. The real world needs him more than a football team needs him. Get better, dude.

“Obviously we’re going to be praying for Teddy — him as a person and his health,” Simmons said.

It should be Drew Lock at quarterback to finish a Broncos season that took a turn for the worse on Sunday. It should be Paton going all-in on a quarterback in the offseason. It should be another wake-up call, because there’s only one thing worse than wasting a solid roster on a couple of iffy quarterbacks. That's wasting two.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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