In a bland, not grand, opening, played out before a cardboard crowd and a gathering resembling a family reunion, the Broncos experienced death not by inches, but by a foot.
Future Hall of Famer Stephen Gostkowski, who was rubbish on three field goals and an extra point, kicked the winning field goal to ruin the Broncos’ 2020 debut.
Three times last season the Broncos blew games in the last half minute.
There’s enough Broncos’ blame to spread among the team, but Vic Fangio, beginning his second season, must absorb the most. He didn’t learn from his rookie season as coach.
Fangi-oh-no didn’t call a timeout while Tennessee drove almost the entire length of the field and used up practically all of the valuable moments, leaving the Broncos with too few seconds.
The coach went to the locker room with his hands and his timeouts in his pocket. The Broncos went home with an excruciating defeat in the first game.
Unfortunately, this just looked like more of the same from the past four seasons.
The Broncos scored only 14 stinking lousy points.
Remember the loss last season at home to the Bears, Fangio’s former team. Field goal, 16-14.
This was supposed to be a new-fangled offense with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and all those young troopers like first-round draft pick Jerry Jeudy.
The wunderkind dropped two passes. The other draft pick, K.J. Hamler was a scratch with an injury, as was receiver Courtland Sutton. The Broncos have four tight ends on the roster. They might have needed six or seven.
Poor old rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia, who had his first interception called back because of a roughing penalty on Alexander Johnson. Then, on the final drive, Michael, with mud in the middle of his last name, was called for a critical pass interference call.
But, then, the Broncos couldn’t win for losing – Melvin Gordon III losing a fumble, the offense losing chance after chance to take advantage of Titans kicking miscues and put the game away, losing their way late in the game by allowing the Titans to go from almost one end to almost the other end.
Drew Lock was solid early, soft at the end. He and Noah Fant connected on the only passing touchdown, and the Lock-Noah-Link was proficient in the first half, invisible in the second half.
The audience didn’t boo Fangio’s failure because these were supposed to be friends and family in the stadium. But people at home in Colorado were jeering, not cheering, at the end.
We’ve seen too much of this act.
The Broncos should have been ahead 14-7 at halftime, but could have been behind 13-7.
So, instead, it was 7-7.
The Broncos were rather impressive in the middle of the stadium offensively and defensively in the opening two quarters, especially given that they were playing without world leader Von Miller and Sutton, then ended up with two rookies at cornerback.
They did limit the Titans in that 30-minute span to one touchdown and a pair of field goal attempts that went awry, one wide and the other blocked. And the Broncos held Derrick Henry to only 50 yards, with a “long gain’’ of just 11.
Lock looked like a top tier quarterback, not a scrub ranked the worst starter in the league by one national website. In his sixth start Lock completed 14 of 17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He returned to Earth in the second half.
Shurmur brought out a shiny new car, having Lock play-action and roll right on the majority of his plays.
However, the Broncos, who had trouble scoring touchdowns in 2017-18-19 in the Red Zone, managed just the one touchdown before intermission because of two breakdowns. They couldn’t make the 1 last yard in three straight attempts
Fangio did go with the correct decision then, though, by forsaking a dead-solid field goal and going for the touchdown. Yet, the Shurmur call for a shovel pass from Lock to tight end Jake Butt was incorrect.
And Gordon fumbled in his first action with the Broncos. He and Phillip Lindsay did surpass Henry with a combined 54 yards in that half.
Gordon made amends by scoring from the 1 later, but Fangio’s refusal to pause the clock late was a downer.
The Broncos are kicking themselves.