I was musing over the vagaries of the Broncos' fall from grace on Sunday. Losing a second year in a row to the Raiders late in the season, at home, is about as unconscionable as anything I can imagine. It hurts on a deep level, and for a lot of reasons. Let's face it - when you can't stop JMR on one drive for the win, you shouldn't have won. Denver's loss was by far the most disappointing of the season.
Like the lists of player problems and mistakes that I've been making as I work through the film room material each week, the list of miscreants from this game was long. I don't tend to easily abandon hope and I generally can see the brighter side of things. There weren't a lot of things to celebrate this time. Most of the problems are just the same mistakes from the same offenders that I've seen each week. We have often won in spite of foolish errors. This time, we threw away a game that we could have and should have won.
With 15 sacks already to his credit, Elvis Dumervil is within reach of setting an NFL record for sacks in a single season. The record is currently held by Michael Strahan, who reached 22.5 sacks in 2001, the highest total since the stat was first recorded. With only 3 games left, Doom is in a race with time as well as against the offensive linemen who stand between him and his goal. He's also one sack behind Simon Fletcher for the Broncos team record.
There's nothing quite like back-to-back wins to put a shine into the work in the film room. The glow of the past two wins hasn't faded at all, but the upcoming contest against the Indianapolis Colts is starting to loom large. Before we get into our matchups and needs against the next foe, let's take some time to look back over what we've accomplished. Special teams, the nose tackle position and even raiderology are on today's menu. Let the feasting begin!
This week brought some colder, wetter autumnal weather to southern California. It put me in the perfect mood to watch a lot of film and to take in all of the facets of a massive, overwhelming Broncos beatdown of the Kansas City Chiefs, right on their own turf. Despite all the press about the past, this is a new team and they took the opportunity to prove that to KC and anyone else who was willing to watch. It was close right up to the end of the first quarter, and quickly turned into a rout during quarter 3. I enjoyed every minute of it. While I wanted to have the Broncos put a headlock on the Chiefs I didn't expect Ryan Clady (photo) to take it quite so literally.
Following the burden of four losses, and continuing through the lighter job of a Thanksgiving turkey-down being visited on the NY Giants, I've been busy in the film room. The Broncos had gone through a hard stretch of the season and I wanted to know why: What changed? What made them goats after weeks of success? The game film was the only place to find out.
"A man's own observation, what he finds good of and what he finds hurt of, is the best physic to preserve health." - Sir Francis Bacon
It isn't news that football is a rough, hard-hitting sport. Our modern combination of the stratagems of chess and the violence of unarmed territorial warfare has a bare-knuckle history, in which simply being willing to use the forward pass was once considered a sign of weakness; in which playing hurt was and is a mark of excellence rather than a failing and which sometimes pits the health of the players against the financial and strategic considerations of the teams and the league itself. Football is still constantly finding and reinventing itself, just as it has over the past 100 years. One thing that has changed over those scores of years is the perspective of players and fans alike: We are discovering that while we will cheer on anything that brings victory a step closer, fans and the league increasingly also want the best for the health of the players. It's leading to a sea-change in the way that we observe and handle the issues of injury in the NFL.
Friday, ten days ago, an upstart proved that they are serious about taking down a champion. The Denver Nuggets invited the LA Lakers into the Can and requested that they bring their lunch. They promptly took their lunch, ate it in front of them and gave back the bag, filled with wrappings and trash. The final score was 105-79 and it wasn't even that close. It was the kind of statement that puts a conference on notice - we're here, we're serious, and the road to the Finals is going to run through the Rockies. Deal with it.
Things change. In the case of the Broncos, the changes have come fast and have shaken people up. From the moment that Pat Bowlen announced that he'd fired Mike Shanahan, most of our preconceptions about this team have been thrown into the fire. What remains is different from anything we expected about this offseason.
Topping the list has been the situation that resulted in the Cutler trade. Chris Simms was brought in as a highly-paid backup and will now compete for a starting job. Kyle Orton was a rumor and a name that crossed some website - now he's a household name in Denver, and fans debate his background and skill-set with fervor. And there is still the specter of Jay Cutler and what he was able, and not able, to accomplish last season.
I have always believed in magic.
From the promise of sunrise to the infinite painted beauty of sunset, our world is filled with magic. A child's smile, the scents in the air after a soft rain, a lover's touch, the mountains' beauty and an infinite number of other phenomena can be understandably labeled as 'magical'. Magic plays with us in our daily lives, often unseen, never far from the moment.
Another week in the NFL, and the Broncos didn't win this time, either. The earth remains in orbit, and the stock market didn't crash (again). Once again, some of the fan base is breaking its ankles in their haste to jump back off the bandwagon. Many of them will climb over people's heads to jump back on next week, too. It's the way this season is going.
One nice thing about getting older is getting a longer perspective on things. Patience, like age, can be a useful thing. You tend to lose the idea that the immediate is as daunting as emotions want to paint. You can, if you're lucky, learn that experiencing more wins than losses is actually enjoyable. You lose some of the urge to demand constant perfection of the world. You realize that your will never manifest that yourself, and you recognize that trying to require it of those around you makes you - and them - miserable. It's a rigged game.