The Broncos bet against Stephen Gostkowski at the wrong time.
Denver didn’t use its timeouts in the final 2 minutes, leaving the balance of the game on the leg of Gostkowski after what had been an all-time horrific night.
The bet backfired, with Gostkowski connecting on the 25-yard game-winning field goal with 17 seconds remaining in a 16-14 Tennessee victory in the season opener Monday night.
The Broncos could have stopped the clock three times during Tennessee’s final drive and opted to let the clock run.
“It was two-fold there,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said when asked why he didn’t use a timeout on Tennessee’s game-winning drive. “One, their field-goal kicker had obviously been having his problems. So I didn’t want to extend the drive to where they could get closer. No. 2, we would have used the timeout, but we got the running back out of bounds. We would have used the second timeout but they threw the incompletion.
“That was part of the thinking there.”
The veteran kicker missed three field goals (47 yards, 44 yards on a block, 42 yards) and a PAT before the redeeming kick.
Denver squandered opportunities, coming up short at the goal line in the first half, losing a fumble that Tennessee turned into a Derrick Henry touchdown and failing to eat time with a lead late in the fourth quarter. There were also a pair of costly drops by rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy in his debut.
Denver also suffered key injuries to running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder).
The Broncos scored on an 8-yard pass from Drew Lock to Noah Fant in the first quarter to go up 7-0. The Titans tied it in the second quarter and jumped ahead 13-7 in the fourth before Denver responded with a 1-yard Melvin Gordon touchdown run.
Lock went 21-of-30 passing for 198 yards and a touchdown in his first season-opening start for the Broncos after leading the team to a 4-1 record late in the year as a rookie in 2019.
“It was definitely really weird out there tonight,” Lock said. “It was like I wanted to call the play quiet in the huddle because I didn’t know if they could hear us calling the plays. It was weird. (A) Mile High (crowd) could have come in big time for us there at the end, but what could have been really big was just us executing the 4-minute offense.”
Henry, who carried the Titans to the AFC Championship game last year, ran for 116 yards on 31 carries.