The last time in a Chiefs-Broncos game at Mile High Stadium that a quarterback wearing No. 15, on third down-and-5, threw a wobbly left-handed pass for a first down happened on New Year’s Day, 2012.
Where have you gone, Timothy Tebow? BroncosNation turns its lonely eyes to you.
In the Chiefs-Broncos game on the first day of October, 2018, Patrick Mahomes faced a three-point deficit and third down-and-5 on his 45-yard line with 3:14 remaining. The right-handed quarterback rolled toward his bench, with Von Miller in blistering pursuit. Just as the Broncos’ linebacker was stuffing Mahomes for a sack, he shifted the football from one hand to the other and shoveled a weak toss to Tyreek Hill for a first down past midfield.
It should have been an omen that the fickle fingers of fate and fortune would doom the Broncos, who suffered a crushing come-from-ahead defeat.
Other circumstances were foretelling and foreboding.
On the first drive of the second half, the Chiefs tied the Broncos 13-13 after Mahomes ran over the line of scrimmage to fling to tight Travis Kelce for 39 yards to the Broncos’ 3. Vance Joseph, who still is unsure and not in control, didn’t challenge the officials’ errant call.
One Denver offensive play later, a 25-yard pass from Broncos’ quarterback Case Keenum to Jeff Heuerman seemed to be complete, but was pulled away with two hands during the tumble by the Chiefs’ Eric Murray.
The latest lousy punt by Marquette King set up the Chiefs’ last real hurrah.
After the Mahomes Off-Handed Pass, the Chiefs were pushed back to their 31 because of consecutive penalties (intentional grounding by Mahomes and offensive holding), and had second down and 30. Broncos’ defensive coordinator Joe Woods inexplicably stuck to man-to-man defense, and the Broncos didn’t man up. Mahomes was on target for a 23-yard catch-and-run.
The confused Chiefs were tardy to get up to the line on third down. I said to anybody listening: “They won’t get this play off.’’ I assumed coach Andy Reid would signal for a timeout as I watched the clock pass one second and hit zero. Then the ball was snapped.
Referee Craig Wolstad told the Broncos’ defense after the play that the official in charge of watching the clock wasn’t watching the expiring clock.
With no time on the clock and no timeout, Mahomes and Demetrius Harris bonded on a 35-yard pass play to the Broncos’ 11 at the two-minute (1:54, actually) warning.
On the subsequent play, Mahomes’ pass was off. But Miller had crossed the line of scrimmage, as Mahomes had earlier, and was penalized for it.
The Chiefs inevitably scored a touchdown for a four-point lead.
Here’s that word again: Time. The Broncos had time for a third comeback at home this season, especially with 28 seconds showing, before Keenum completed his fourth pass of the drive to the Chiefs’ 28.
Then, Demaryius Thomas was streaking free down the sideline. If he catches it and runs in, Broncos win. Yet, the ball sailed beyond D.T.’s reach.
Keenum got the blame, although Thomas slightly slowed en route.
The blame must be shared by those two, the other players, the coach and his coordinators. Bill Musgrave virtually abandoned the run on the Broncos’ two final possessions despite the brilliance of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who combined for 136 yards rushing for the first 54 minutes.
The blame for the loss must be shared by the officials, who experienced a miserable night. They heard about it from the sellout crowd and again Tuesday from the league office. And the blame must be shared by the NFL drones in New York who examine instant replays.
The Broncos’ concluding-chance play turned into a fire drill. Keenum threw to Courtland Sutton at the 19, and the rookie receiver went for the old hook-and-ladder, trying to lateral to keep the Broncos alive. Instead, the Chiefs ended up with the ball.
Last call was reversed, and an incomplete pass was ruled. Another wrong decision.
The Chiefs’ quarterback is 2-0 in Denver after earning his first victory in 2017’s final game.
Mahomes proved he is exceptionally special and somewhat ambidextrous.
The Broncos see him again Oct. 28.