Happy Thursday, friends. When you're the best team in the NFL, here's how you lose to a pretty good, but clearly inferior team, in chronological order:
1. Don't challenge a bad spot on third and short, on the opening possession of the game, near midfield, or better yet, go for it on 4th and 1. (John Fox)
2. Jump offsides (Shaun Phillips) on 3rd and 11 like your name is Elvis Dumervil. The Colts still went three and out, but still...
3. Fail to get proper depth in your zone drop on 3rd and 10, and give up an easy completion in the seam. (Danny Trevathan)
4. Overthrow Knowshon Moreno in the flat on 2nd and 1, after he got nine yards on first down. (Peyton Manning)
5. Fumble the ball on the sideline after a decent punt return, because you failed to switch the ball to your outside arm. (Trindon Holliday)
6. Overrun your man coverage responsibility (Darius Heyward-Bey) when he cuts back to where he started from, because you're not watching him, and promptly give up a touchdown. (Champ Bailey)
7. Retired for John Elway. (TYJE)
8. Get called for holding on a good punt return by Trindon Holliday. (Andre Caldwell)
9. Miss a tackle on the QB, because you felt like shoulder-bumping him forward, rather than wrapping him up on 3rd and 11. (Von Miller)
10. Ask DE Robert Ayers to cover the fastest FB in the NFL (Stanley Havili) man-to-man in the flat on third down. (Jack Del Rio)
11. Continually ask Julius Thomas to block at the point of attack, when he's getting dominated. (Adam Gase)
12. Don't field a punt when a fair catch is available at the 10-yard line. (Holliday, our first repeat offender)
13. Get called for a (ticky-tack) offensive pass interference penalty on third down deep in your own end. (Knowshon Moreno)
14. Lose the strike zone completely on three consecutive bad incompletions right before halftime, leaving 1:44 on the clock. By the way, this is terrible clock management. (Manning on the throws, Fox/Gase on the terrible clock management)
15. Get caught inside, peeking in the backfield, when you're supposed to be covering the TE Coby Fleener on a quick out, giving up a third-down TD with 15 seconds to go in the first half. (Trevathan)
16. Get called for holding on the opening play of the third quarter, putting the team in 1st and 20. (Manny Ramirez)
17. Quit on a vertical route where there's a catchable ball to your inside shoulder, so you can unsuccessfully lobby for a flag. (Eric Decker)
18. Fumble another punt on the catch, and even though you recover it, you've pinned the offense deep. (Holliday)
19. Continue to run against favorable-looking boxes, knowing that Chris Kuper and Julius Thomas are getting mashed, and the running game is resultingly going nowhere. (Gase/Manning)
20. Get called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taking your helmet off. (Kevin Vickerson)
21. Don't bother spying a mobile QB in man coverage in the red zone. (Del Rio)
22. Get another helmet removal penalty (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). (both Vickerson and Terrance Knighton, somehow)
23. Take a false start penalty on first and goal. (Louis Vasquez)
24. Fail to control the ball all the way to the ground on a would-be touchdown catch. (Decker)
25. Take a delay of game penalty in goal-to-go. (Manning)
26. I'm fine with taking the field goal on fourth and goal from the 13, down 33-14 to make it a two-score game, but Doug didn't like it. It's debatable whether it's a mistake. My reasoning to be okay with it is that Manning was unlikely to throw short of the end zone, so you'd likely either have an incomplete pass or a TD. If it's incomplete, having the Colts take the ball at the 13 is nowhere near as advantageous as having them take it inside their five. I say take the points when the yardage is that long, and play some defense.
27. Overrun your tackling lane on a Heyward-Bey reverse, and give up a 30-yard play. (Rahim Moore, although I'm being slightly tough on him, since Gosder Cherilus gave him a slight shove outside, after he'd initially overrun the play.)
28. Have a tipped Andrew Luck pass fall between three Broncos who either aren't paying attention (Sylvester Williams), didn't see the ball flight (Trevathan), or can't quite get to it (Duke Ihenacho). Promptly give back that debatable field goal, as a result.
29. Consistently underthrow receivers, even when you complete a deep ball. (Manning)
30. After making a good catch for a touchdown, drop a crucial two-point conversion, that, while it may have been thrown a bit too hard, hit his hands. (Demaryius Thomas)
31. CONTINUE not to learn the lesson about Julius Thomas as a blocker, and watch him get pushed right into Manning for a hit-caused interception deep in Broncos territory. Can we occasionally have some Virgil Green or Joel Dreessen in these situations? (Gase)
32. Come out of the end zone, from deep, after bobbling the kickoff, again pinning the Broncos inside the 20. (Holliday)
33. Fumble the ball at the goal line, because you're a fumbler, and that's what fumblers do, as I was just telling my old friend Peyton Hillis. (Ronnie Hillman)
34. Get called for roughing the passer, stupidly, after Andrew Luck just helped you out by throwing incomplete on second down. (Vickerson)
35. Take a sack on 3rd and 10, knowing you absolutely can't take a sack, because you need the clock not to run. Throw the ball away! (Manning)
During the game, I decided I would make this list, once I got a chance to re-watch the video. (Thumbs down to the NFL, by the way, for blacking out Game Rewind during Monday Night Football, even when it's one of the most unwatchable games ever.) Those are 33 or 34 identifiable mistakes made by the Broncos during the course of the game, and they don't include any cases of a great player (like Robert Mathis) beating a merely solid one (like Chris Clark).
Throughout this season, the Broncos have made a ton of mental mistakes, and a few physical ones, and until Sunday, they paid no consequences for them, in terms of wins and losses. That's the sort of situation that can get you to thinking that mistakes don't matter, and then you end up losing a Shit Happens game, like in the playoffs last year.
The Broncos need to clean up their mistakes, and get laser-focused on execution. That's supposed to be the bailiwick of a non-technocratic football guy like John Fox - to drive fundamentals and consistent execution - and it's time that he lived up to it a little more. On one hand, as TJ noted last week, it's good that Fox doesn't doghouse guys for screwing up, but on the other hand, at some point, the evidence is what it is on a guy like Hillman.
The Broncos can beat any team in the NFL when they execute, and I extend that to coaches as well. Everybody has to do their jobs, and if they do, the Broncos will be just fine.