[to top of second column]
Two weeks ago, the Broncos trailed by seven in the waning seconds of the first half at Carolina. Instead of taking a knee, Shanahan called for a run and Young fumbled. The Panthers kicked a short field goal and then steamrolled Denver in the second half.
A bigger gaffe came Sunday with the Broncos leading 13-3 with 2 minutes left in the first half against Buffalo. Shanahan decided to go for a 54-yard field goal instead of pinning the Bills deep with a punt. Kicker Matt Prater's limit going north in the pregame warmups was 52 yards.
The kick came up 2 yards shy of the crossbar.
Buffalo capitalized on the miscalculation and the short field for a touchdown just before halftime, then scored the first four times it had the ball in the second half in upsetting the crestfallen Broncos 30-23.
"Obviously, it didn't turn out to be the right decision," Shanahan said.
Neither was the Broncos' resolution to have Prater try a series of squibs and pooches on kickoffs that continually backfired when the Bills kept getting great field position: their average start was their 38. The Broncos never adjusted their approach or their coverage.
"He didn't have one of his best games kicking off," Shanahan said.
And Shanahan and his staff didn't have one of their best days coaching.
The Broncos lost to the Bills despite outgaining them 532 yards to 275.
"I feel like if you hold a team under 300 yards, they shouldn't get 30 points," Bailey said. "So, obviously, the hidden yardage is in the kicking game. We've got to pick it up."
Not just on special teams, where the Broncos miss Jason Elam (two misses this year to Prater's nine). But on defense, which has been dismal all season with no pass rush to speak of, and offense, where they're too predictable and can't capitalize in the red zone.
While owner Pat Bowlen has basically anointed Shanahan coach for life, the fan base is getting restless. The Broncos have won just one playoff game since John Elway hung up his cleats after winning two Super Bowls in the late 1990s.
Shanahan decided to blow up the team and rebuild following a loss to Pittsburgh in the 2005 AFC championship. He handed the ball to Cutler with five games to go in the 2006 season and the playoffs still a possibility. They fell short that year, losing at home to San Francisco when a win would have clinched a playoff berth. That night, cornerback Darrent Williams was slain in a drive-by shooting, a tragedy that hung over the team all last season, when the Broncos went 7-9.
Burned by the likes of Todd Sauerbrun and Travis Henry, the Broncos made a concerted effort to go after high-character players in the offseason. Their work paid off with a dozen rookies -- eight draft picks and four free agents -- who have stepped in and played significant roles, some by merit, others by necessity.
That bodes well for the future, but maybe not so much for this weekend.
Bruised and battered, the Broncos cling to hope.
"We can still win the AFC West," Shanahan said.
This time, though, Hochuli won't be around to save them from themselves.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor