INDIANAPOLIS — The first half of the Broncos’ season can be summarized in a sequence that lasted 6.26 seconds.
The Broncos clung to a one-point lead Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts with 1:49 remaining. The Colts were at their 11-yard line.
At the snap, outside linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Derek Wolfe looped inside and outside, respectively. Wolfe drew two blockers, meaning Miller had a free run at quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Miller wrapped his arms around Brissett’s waist at the 1-yard line, but the sturdy-as-all-get-out Brissett didn’t go down, causing the airborne Miller to spin around him … and right into Wolfe, who tripped over Miller.
Brissett scrambled and, after holding the football for the aforementioned time, threw a 35-yard strike to T.Y. Hilton. Six plays later, Adam Vinatieri’s 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining completed the Colts’ 15-13 comeback victory.
“I thought I had (Brissett),” Miller said. “It’s tough. It’s worse when you feel like you could’ve done a little bit more. That one play is going to stick with me for a little bit.”
On the other side of the Broncos’ mostly empty locker room, Wolfe pointed out his miscue on the Brissett Escape Act.
“We should have had him on the ground,” Wolfe said. “That’s not all Von. I should’ve been there to help. I tripped over Von — uncoordinated, stupid play. I should have made that tackle with Von and we would have been good.”
Instead, the Broncos weren’t good enough in crunch time. Again. Just this year, the Broncos have lost 16-14 to Chicago and 26-24 to Jacksonville as time expired — and now this gut punch.
“I don’t mean to keep beating the drum, but we just didn’t find ways to close it,” safety Justin Simmons said.
The Broncos are 2-6 for only the third time in 36 years (1983 and 2010).
These are a new kind of bad times for the Broncos. Where is their ability to put teams away with red-zone efficiency and a solid running game? Where is their knack for making big plays at key times? Where is their finishing punch?
Gone, gone and gone.
Average teams know how to finish the occasional game. The Broncos? Not so much. They raced out to a 17-0 lead against the Chargers in Week 5 and clung on for dear life in a 20-17 win. In their other win, they beat Tennessee 16-0 and were never threatened.
The finger-pointing for the Broncos’ latest debacle can start with the offense. They reached the Colts’ 3- and 9-yard lines in the second quarter but settled for Brandon McManus field goals.
“Those hurt you; they usually come back to bite you, especially for us — we don’t score many points anyway,” coach Vic Fangio said. “To not come away with seven on both of those drives, it ends up being a major factor.”
On the first possession, the Broncos had first down at the 3 and Joe Flacco threw three incompletions. What happened to the team that wants its running game to be a hallmark?
“The defense kept getting stops over and over again,” one Broncos defensive player said. “And this is what (ticked) me off: We’re on the 3-yard line and throw it three straight times? Run … the … (dang) … ball.”
After the game Flacco would take issue with the Broncos not passing the ball it while leading 13-12. But Fangio, or offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, or both, were determined to make Indianapolis use all of its timeouts by running the ball. Which it did. And it didn’t matter.
“Why can’t we be aggressive in some of these situations?” Flacco said.
The defense isn’t blameless, though. Leading 6-0 late in the first half, the Broncos allowed the Colts to move 43 yards in 55 seconds for a Vinatieri 55-yard field goal. And, on the final drive, they had Brissett in Miller’s grasp only to let it slip away.
Once Brissett escaped, the Colts were on their way to 5-2 and the Broncos were on their way to more misery.
“When you let good teams hang around and don’t put your foot down, they always have a chance to win,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “We gave them that chance.”