DENVER • Famous last words? “I think we’re playing good enough football. ... ”
So spoke softly the coach after the Broncos lost for the 17th time in the 25 games of the Vance Joseph Error.
Joseph didn’t shout about or spout off about the Broncos when he met the media. But he certainly didn’t do a mic drop – a gesture of triumph after a performance.
He did respond to a question about changes after the bye week by suggesting the Broncos will make no changes because, he said, they are playing good football.
The Country of the Broncos has been reduced to reveling in moral victories. The team almost won again Sunday. But kicker Brandon McManus – a poor selection, as it turned out, for the cover of Gameday, the Broncos’ official program Sunday – missed a go-ahead field goal as time expired. In the story, McManus is quoted as saying: “The thrill of being in that final kick or the big kicks is such an exciting thing.”
McManus missed a big kick of 62 yards with 22 seconds remaining in the first half. McManus then missed a kick of 51 yards on the final play. Those were such exciting things. The providential Texans won by two points.
In the concept of daylight savings time, the Broncos would fall back. The Broncos might win in Oakland on Christmas Eve. What a gift. The Broncos might duplicate their 5-11 record of 2017.
Maybe, though, they’ll have to do it without Joseph.
John Elway decided, with an appeal from Joe Ellis, to “sleep on” whether or not to keep Joseph after his abysmal coaching demonstration in Year One. In November of Season Two, Elway certainly had a sleepless Sunday night.
Does the Broncos Boss stick with, and to, Vance until season’s bitter end, or push his coach to the pavement during the fortnight? The sentiment in the locker room and the front office is that Joseph should stay for the last two months. Fine. I can’t wait for that Browns-Broncos showdown on Dec. 15 when the fifth overall pick in the next draft is determined.
As Joseph acknowledged, after early darkness descended on Denver, another revolting mess in a first half was “totally on me. I’m trying to be greedy and get three points there, and it cost us three. I get that.” Sounds familiar.
At this juncture, forget at the moment the conclusions of the first half and the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Texans, following an offensive holding call, confronted first-and-15 at their 5-yard line. Deshaun Watson, a quarterback the Broncos would love to have, was chased back into the end zone – with a safety and a 19-19 score quite possible.
However, Watson escaped, as usual, and flipped the ball to running back Lamar Miller, who clawed for 16 yards and a first down.
Instead of retrieving the ball on a punt in superb position with seven minutes left, the Broncos suffered as the Texas ate yardage and nearly three minutes.
The Broncos did have sufficient time for a drive, but Case Keenum is no Elway, and these aren’t your Peyton Manning Broncos.
Joseph needlessly already had used a timeout on a play when Houston had an injured player, and the clock already was stopped. The Broncos lost more time – including a 10-second runoff after back-to-back false start and holding penalties – but did reach the Texans’ 37. Rather than attempt to move closer, where McManus is money, Joseph elected to run one running play – “to get the ball in the middle of the field,” Joseph said — and run the clock down to three seconds for 51-yard kick, which isn’t comfortable.
Just before the end of the first half, Joseph tried a tactic he must have seen on TV. He called a timeout to “ice” Houston’s Ka’imi Fairbairn before a 46-yard kick. Of course, Fairbairn was errant. Joseph “de-iced” him. The second field goal was perfect.
Chris Harris Jr., had two observations that genuinely synopsized the Broncos’ ludicrous crisis: Comparing the defeats to the Chiefs and the Texans: “This one is tough, too. They just keep adding up.” And: “It’s just like last year.”
Yet, Joseph says the Broncos are playing good-enough football . . . good enough to be 3-6.
Sleep on, Vance.