BALTIMORE — It was Friday afternoon, before the Broncos hopped a flight to return to this house of horrors, when Vance Joseph proclaimed loud and clear to Broncos Country: “Last year’s team is dead and gone.”
So it must be Ray Lewis who’s behind all this. When it comes to the Broncos, he’s usually up to no good. Lewis was honored before, during and after the Ravens thumped the Broncos 27-14 on a sloppy day at M&T Bank Stadium.
Has Rev. Lewis raised the 2017 Broncos from the dead?
Because that sure looked like the 5-11 Broncos, right down to the "self-inflicted" penalties that cost the Broncos "at least 20 points," as Joseph explained. The Broncos had 13 penalties for 120 yards. Two time zones and a year removed from a nightmare season, the Broncos came undone. They’re now 1-8 in road games under Joseph. They’re now a recurring bad dream.
“We beat ourselves more than they beat us,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said in a strangely upbeat locker room after the Broncos lost for the first time this season.
"It's frustrating whenever you get penalties in a close game like that," Von Miller said. "I don't think that's the type of team we are, though."
This was a distant replay of almost every road game the Broncos have played with Joseph on the sideline. They’re running out of quarterbacks to blame this on, this undisciplined, unfortunate and unacceptable display that inevitably goes kersplat whenever the Broncos play a game away from Mile High. Not to say I told you so, but the Ravens possess a unique ability to reveal what the Broncos truly are. This is pretty much what they’ve truly been: more penalty yards (90) than passing yards (85) through three quarters of the game. Yes, you read that correctly.
Which one broke your remote control? The 12-men-in-the-huddle on 4th-and-1? That flag reminded of the delay-of-game flag last year at Miami — on a kickoff. The twin holding penalties on left tackle Garett Bolles? The Ronald Leary unsportsmanlike penalty that nudged the Broncos out of field-goal position? The penalty flag that fell long after the whistles had blown?
"It was (on) someone who was out of the game," Joseph said.
You can't make this stuff up. The British Navy made fewer mistakes at nearby Fort McHenry.
Last year’s team was dead and gone.
And now it lives!
“I can’t speak too much on the refs,” Harris said. “I don’t want to get fined.”
Somebody should speak too much about the refs. They stunk up the joint. Phillip Lindsay was ejected for throwing a punch while body after massive body fell on top of his 190-pound body.
“We were trying to get the ball out,” Lindsay said afterward. “It looked like I was swinging at somebody.”
And Harris had a touchdown return negated due to a penalty that occurred well behind the play.
“That changed the game,” Harris said.
Neither is why the Broncos lost another road game in familiar fashion.
The Broncos continue to say they are different, that quarterback Case Keenum has injected new life into the offense, that the boneheaded errors that led to a 5-11 season are all fixed now.
Guess we’re all just seeing things.
The frustrating part of this frustrating equation is that the Broncos are a vastly improved roster from a year ago. But they repeat the same dumb mistakes an undisciplined team would make.
Keenum throwing an interception into double coverage looked like Trevor Siemian throwing an interception into double coverage. Seven straight punts by the Broncos offense looked exactly like last season. A joking, remorseless locker room after a loss sounded a lot like last season. Sunday was simply a distant replay.
“It probably cost us 20 points today just with self-inflicted penalties,” Joseph said afterward.
These are ravenous football fans in Baltimore City. So it was a shock to see the stadium half empty on Sunday. I got several explanations for the dreary attendance on a dreary day. One was the NFL protests, how the Ravens once knelt for the national anthem while standing for “God Save the Queen” before a game in London. Or how the Ravens were 41-41 since the retirement of Lewis, the Hall of Famer who danced his dance during player introductions. The Ravens now are 42-41 since Lewis hung 'em up.
The Broncos looked like 5-11 all over again — with Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs offense up next, on Monday Night Football.
"Our entire back end must play better against the pass," Joseph said.
If Joseph and Broncos replay this replay, they'll hope Broncos Stadium at Mile High is half empty.