Disbelief, confusion and total amazement are some of the words to describe yesterdays meltdown by the Denver Broncos. It seemed Peyton Manning and the top seeded Broncos were headed to the AFC Championship with control of the ball and under 2 minutes to play. Then a series of blunders and mistakes occurred.
First, the Broncos had the ball with the clock ticking to the 2 minute warning. Instead of attempting to get a first down with supposedly one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, the Broncos chose to run the ball, eat some clock and punt it away. Maybe not the worst idea but I was taught you play to win the game, you don't play not to lose it! And that's exactly what Denver did.
After a good punt, the Ravens had possession deep in their own territory with no timeouts left. That didn't matter! You would think the Broncos had learned their lesson or at the very least were aware that they were getting burnt down field all game long. With that apparently not in mind, the Broncos blew coverage and allowed special teamer Jacoby Jones to get behind the defense and catch and absolute bomb of a pass by Joe Flacco to tie the game.
If that wasn't bad enough the Broncos made another mistake. They had already made physical and mental mistakes, now they made a coaching mistake. Although it wasn't by head coach John Fox. It was by the coach on the field Peyton Manning. Manning had already thrown a pick six earlier in the game and has been prone to the big interception in key moments. Remember the loss to the Saints in the Super Bowl just a few years ago!
I believe coach Fox gave Manning the option to go for it and try to attempt a long field goal by picking up a few first downs, or they can kneel on the ball and try their luck in overtime. There were 31 seconds on the clock and the Broncos had 2 timeouts to try and move the ball about 45 yards. Certainly possible with the great Peyton Manning right? I guess Peyton didn't feel that way because he chose to sit on the ball, run out the clock and take their chances in overtime.
Well, in overtime Peyton did what he feared he may do late in the 4th quarter. Manning was pressured and rolled right on a 3rd down play. Peyton uncharacteristically threw across his body and was picked off at mid field at the end of the first overtime. Maybe it wasn't so uncharacteristic as we've seen Peyton do this type of thing before. He like many of the other greats, has the gunslinger mentality and will try to fit passes into places they don't belong.
A few Ray Rice runs later and rookie Justin Tucker kicked a game winning 47 yard field goal sending the Baltimore Ravens back to the AFC Championship for the 2nd consecutive year and the 3rd time in the last 5. Joe Flacco played great in his attempt to silence his critics. One thing you have to give to Joe, the man wins in the post season. He's the only QB in NFL history to win a playoff game in his first 5 seasons. So far in this years playoffs, Flacco is averaging 306 yards passing with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Then the fear of Manning kicked in when Denver didn't even attempt to make a few plays and get the ball in field goal range at the end of regulation. Instead they kneel it and go to OT. Then the final blunder which was a typical Peyton Manning interception in a crucial moment to end the Broncos hopes of a Super Bowl berth.
I put a lot of the blame for this loss on Manning. He was hesitant and unsure of himself. He made some bad throws in this game and should have been picked off a few more times. His lack of guts at the end of regulation could be the reason Denver is staying home for the duration of the playoffs. Well there's that and the fact that they forgot how to play defense. This one will sting in Denver for a long time. They all thought this was their year. But they also forgot that as great as Peyton is, he just isn't a great post season quarterback. For those wondering he has a losing record in the playoffs (9-11).