“Ninety-six hours is all we’ve got,” Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday, counting every desperate second of every urgent hour between that loss to the hated Raiders and the distinct possibility of a four-game losing streak which coach Vic Fangio cannot survive.
At this point, defusing the time bomb looks like Mission Impossible. And guess what? Tom Cruise, let alone John Elway or Mike Shanahan, does not walk through the door of the Broncos headquarters.
The Broncos have no choice but to end a three-game losing streak before it ruins their careers, not to mention the team’s playoff dreams. “The choice is an illusion,” said Von Miller, looking more like Yoda than the Pro Bowl linebacker that this team could really use right now.
Do or don’t. There is no trial.
This faltering Denver team wins their next game or everything explodes. No one survives in the land of the Broncos except the cockroaches. Everyone receives a pink slip. All. Alone. Body.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur? Faded away. Miller? One more step towards free agency. Bridgewater? Keeping the seat warm until Aaron Rodgers and the Packers accept a call from GM George Paton. Fangio? In a deep spaghetti sauce.
Immediately after their defense was exposed as a leading fraud and Bridgewater was hit like a pinata in a 34-24 loss to Las Vegas, the Broncos took turns behind the podium at a press conference post-match. Each of them looked as pitiful as a little kid who forgot to practice for a piano recital, dutifully declaring they had 96 hours to avert disaster in Cleveland in the cruel NFL farce on the health of an injured team: Thursday night football.
While being beaten in those Super Bowls a generation ago has left scars on the fan base, there is absolutely no worse sin in Broncos Country than being embarrassed at home by the Raiders. And make no mistake, Denver was embarrassed by a Las Vegas team that had been shaken in their hearts by the resignation of coach Jon Gruden.
How horrible was that? While championship football teams are built from the ground up, Denver has fundamental flaws in its offensive and defensive lines. Bridgewater was pummeled 17 times trying to throw. The Vonster and his supposedly elite comrades gave up 8.2 yards per snap in Las Vegas.
“Put simply: we got our asses screamed,” said security Justin Simmons.
The Broncos celebrated Shanahan at halftime, honoring him with his rightful place in the Ring of Fame. No one, as the Mastermind has happily acknowledged more than once in recent days, hates the Raiders with greater passion than the greatest coach in franchise history.
Although the Broncos trailed 17-7 after two quarters, Shanahan said, “Oh, they’re going to win. They will win.
Do you know what’s really sad? Shanny was perhaps the only person in the whole stadium to believe his prediction.
I’ve seen a lot since 1983, when Elway and I first wandered this dusty old town with cows. But until Josh Jacobs ran three yards for a touchdown to give Las Vegas a 31-10 lead at the end of the third quarter, I had never seen Denver turn into a Raiders town.
How could this even be possible? The overwhelming majority of the crowd at Empower Field were so defeated and listless that orange-clad fans couldn’t even muster the energy to boo the home team, allowing members of the Colorado chapter of the Dirty Al Davis Society to express loud and clear to them how pleased they are with the appalling developments on the ground.
Since the start of last season, Fangio has lost eight of 11 home games. Broncos Country can’t stand that kind of stench. Losing at home, especially against the Raiders, will result in the dismissal of a coach. With the franchise ownership in motion, the home will need to be cleaned before it goes on sale.This debacle took me back to the past. On September 28, 1994, the Broncos were beaten by the Raiders 48-16 in old Mile High. Wade Phillips, a good guy who was a much better defensive coordinator than the head coach, was booed as he ran to the locker room in defeat. The Wadester was almost gone that sad day, paving the way for Shanahan to take back the fortunes of a struggling franchise. And the rest? A happy story that shone like diamonds in Super Bowl rings won by a coach who was not only innovative, but relentlessly hardened.
“You have to fight,” said Shanahan, who never blinked in the face of adversity. Not even when the going got tough enough (remember the home playoff loss to Jacksonville?) For a Mastermind to be driven into exasperation and exclaim, “Oh. My. God. “
A time bomb turns and Denver lives on prayer.
But hey, look on the bright side: maybe blowing everything up and starting over might not be such a bad idea.
If the history of the Broncos has taught us anything, it’s the darkest before a new dawn.