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Published on 12/14/2008 at Sun Dec 14 17:47.
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Steve Smith single handedly destroyed the Denver Broncos. (Photo courtesy Getty Images).

Steve Smith single-handedly destroyed the Denver Broncos. (Photo courtesy Getty Images).

Going into the game not knowing whether or not they had clinched the AFC West did not turn out to matter for the Denver Broncos. It wasn’t Smash and Dash so much as just smash. A Champ Bailey-less Broncos proved that for every two-steps forward, there may be three steps back. With the return of D.J. Williams Denver’s defense still couldn’t promote much of a pass rush on an underwhelming Carolina Panthers passing attack.

Carolina’s wide receiver Steve Smith went on to catch 165-yards on nine receptions for one touchdown. Covered predominantly by Dre Bly, Smith proved that Denver was miles from home. With no pass-rush, Carolina’s Jake Delhomme dictated the game as Denver defense handed yet another mediocre quarterback a career game.

Late, during garbage time the Broncos did seem to develop a running game, trading hand-offs between P.J. Pope (seven runs for 51-yards) and Tatum Bell (seven runs for 43-yards), but it was too little, too late. Jay Cutler finished atrociously, coming off of his Player of the Week performance against Kansas City to finish 21/33 for 172-yards one touchdown and one interception. Brandon Marshall wasn’t much help with five catches for 48-yards despite 14 targets.

During the game the San Diego Chargers went on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Denver loss to Carolina the Broncos must win against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday to win the division.

  • Ian Henson

    The Carolina Panthers offense averaged 7.5-yards per play.

  • DepressedSF

    Back to reality huh? Where are all the guys who spent all week complaining and moaning about this team being disrespected. Are you going to spend this coming week saying what I’ve been saying all along? That would be the fact that all the disrespect is WELL DESERVED. So what that they have a very good offense. People didn’t respect the Colts either when their defense was a joke. Remember what Shannon Sharpe said about the Colts before they got better on D: “I would have a better chance of hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium with a toothepick then this team has at winning a super bowl with this defense.”

    And message to Bob Slowik, I think that Steve Smith guy’s got a future. You might want to keep an eye on him.

  • Roy

    It may just be me, but during the second half it looked like a lot of our players quit on us. The lack of hussle by many of our players certainly contributed to the loss. How can th team expect to compete when players are not giving their all? Up here in Washington they actually turned the game off, opting instead to show the last quarter of the Ravens/Steelers game because it was “more competitive.” I can’t exactly disagree, either.

  • Michael

    I want to apologize to everyone, I kept breathing too hard during the game and it kept knocking Tinker Bell over, sorry about that.

  • Ian Henson

    The team quit- I’m not sure that they ever even started. I think that Denver could have definitely done better with Champ, but in reality the guy has practically missed an entire season over the last two-years… I’m not one for getting rid of the best corner in the league, but at a certain point… It’s just too much for my mind to handle at this point =P

  • olen

    Oh to be in Shanahan’s head and really know what is the plan .The Broncos do not have enough forces to mount a frontal attack . They do however have the ability to win the war.

  • jchase8410

    Wow! All I can say is wow. I have never in all my days of watching and playing football seen a team with less desire to even compete in a game. There was absolutely no sense of urgency in the second half. EVERYONE was going through the motions, players and coaches.
    DepressedSF is 100% correct in saying that this team deserves the disrespect that they get. I understand just getting beat by a better team, but to just phone in the second half…Even I, a loyal and devoted fan, lost a lot of respect for the broncos. I just can’t comprehend how a team of professional athletes could show so little heart. If I wanted to be a fan of a team who doesn’t give a sh!t, I would root for the raiders.
    I didn’t expect a win, but I can’t tolerate a team that quits. I am thouroughly disappointed in this team!

  • BroncoFan18

    That was disgusting. That’s really all I can say right now.

    Better hope we win at home next week against Buffalo, because if it comes down to the game in San Diego, we’re toast.

  • jchase8410

    That’s no way to talk BroncoFan18…I’ll be at that game in SD!

  • Awesome, Austin

    WOW They didn’t even try the last quarter…SD has the slimmest of chances of getting in the playoffs and they pull out a win purely because their guys DID NOT QUIT! And Fire that Damn Prater all ready! Mort Anderson is still out there isn’t he? Once Young fumbled and CAR got the 3pts it was like no one even cared…shameful!

  • Ian Henson

    Definitely not a great second-half and I really can’t say why. I know the obvious reasons, but I’ve seen Denver come back against better teams. Thee thing is the Panthers aren’t a great team, they’re a good team and they’re from the NFC. Denver should have/could have won, they just didn’t have the heart.

    I’ve got a lot more to say, but I’m going to save it for the articles. Grieve Bronco brethren and let’s look forward.

  • DepressedSF

    Ian, was it a lack of heart when the Broncos defense was smoked by Raiders 31-10 while making JaMarcus look like a top tier quarterback? Was it a lack of heart when we were almost swept by the Chiefs? Let’s go back further, was it a lack of heart when we were embarrassed two straight years by the Colts in the Playoffs only to see them go on and lose? Was it a lack of heart when we were picked apart in the AFC championship game by a sixth ranked team at home? Is it a lack of heart when the defense routinely gives up ten minute, 18 play, eighty yard drives?

    This problem is a lot more deep than simplifying it to “well, we could have won if we just had more heart”. It’s defense, defense, defense and it always has been. It’s time to come to the conclusion that Shannahan, one of the greatest offensive minds, just doesn’t get it. With great offense, and great offensive systems, just can plug in different players and be successful because it is the system. We’ve proved that with all the running backs who have had great success with Denver. Defense is different, and Shannahan treats it like offense. With defense you can’t just throw out anybody and have them succeed because of the system. That’s what this defense, and previous defenses have been, just throwing out a bunch of players. They play dumb also. They run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Contrary to the cliche you need smart people on the defensive side of the ball.

    Everyone here, and every Bronco fan, needs to realize that the only reason this season could be maybe considered a successful one is because the Chargers, a superior team to the Broncos (you all know this), choked so many games.

    STOP PUTTING BANDAGES, LIKE LACK OF HEART, OR INJURIES, over these serious problems. It’s not because of lack of heart this defense is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

  • T-Money

    This was ugly. Here’s why:

    1. Jay was off
    2. Our Defense stayed in Denver
    3. Steve Smith
    4. Randy Cross’s negativity!
    5. The refs gave Carolina 7 and took out whatever life we had.

  • broncoNM

    Lets not get over dramatic. Carolina is a good team and we did not bring our A game. Im sure all that respect can be earned next week if we take it to the Bills and claim the AFC West. Today was not the best showing. We certainly could have used Champ today. Steve Smith ripped us a new one. I think if we run into the panthers again we should try and cover him.

  • Roy

    I really attribute this to coaching. Aside from the piss poor angles of pursuit taken by the defense, there was no fire. Some of the defensive players showed up, but not enough to matter. I don’t care how well rookie CB Bell is playing, he should not lead the team in tackles. When a bunch of listless players take the field there is no one to blame but the coaches. It is their job to prepare this team. They failed.

  • MIAbronco

    so who are we picking with our first two picks in the draft?

  • jchase8410

    I saw lethargy in this game…there was no tenacity, no desire to win…they simply played like they don’t care. No sense of urgency, no emotion…I honestly think I can tackle better than HALF of this horrible defense, and I’m lazy!

  • rcsodak

    Wow! How about a hand for the rush D? They held the team that laid 300 on TB, to half that, with nobody breaking 100. Had it not been for a great run, the game could have been closer.
    What a bunch of negheads!
    Next week denver hosts a terrible Bills team that can’t win away from home. Denver SHOULD win the division, and hopefully start working on improving weak areas.
    Prater needs a blanket-party!
    Cutler needs to stop throwing picks!
    Shanny needs to quit calling needless TO’s!
    Young needs to hold on to the ball!
    Bailey needs to get healthy!
    Crowder needs to get traded for some BenGay!

    All this team needs is to WIN the division, and a weight will be lifted. I think they’re starting to play scared.

    And the Bills might just be the bandaid they need!

  • SportHess

    Horrible game plan, should have activated FB-Pinnock, and Boyd,

  • Steve

    What I took away from today is:
    1 we need champ bailey back, now
    2 steve smith is very very good
    3 we had better draft mays out of usc
    4 carolina will make it to the superbowl
    5 marshall needs to step up, now
    6 it doesnt matter if we beat buffalo, the chargers will lose to tampa bay..broncos are going to the playoffs

  • Awesome, Austin

    The thing is this team came out and played like “we can afford to lose this game because we have two more to get in” instead of “we can prove how good we really are by beating a good team and make sure we control our destiny” to me that equals lack of heart above other defeats. (although when the cheifs backed into the playoffs when we could have made it with a win was pretty bad too)

  • MIAbronco

    you know what i want more then any certain player is, Mike Nolan. we need a real defensive coordinator that has had success and that is allowed to draft his guys a build a great defense. like it was mentioned before, we cant just plug in anybody into our defense and hopre to be successful. i mean dont get me wrong about certain aspects of our defense like our linebacker, that is a very promising group if they can stay healthy, but our once feared secondary is atrocious, not to mention our d-line gives them no help by forcing NO pressure. how long can shanny go with a horrid defense like this before hes ready to do something about it?

  • BronxNY

    The thing I can’t believe is that nobody on here pointed out how ridiculous Selvin Young is. That fumble at the end of the half was the thing that just finished the game for all everybody, it’s like that is when we gave up after a pretty decent first quarter. 9 SECONDS LEFT, RUN OUT THE CLOCK PLAY AND THIS GUY IS TRYING TO MAKE UP HIS 2000 YARDS. I don’t need to see that guy play ever again. To bad Tatum Bell is a fumbler too.

    I can’t completely blame the game plan in that a lot of people on this post thought Woodyard as strong safety was a neat idea to to keep him on the field. What I’m not sure I understand is Josh Bell trying to run at everything from 20 yards deep. He clearly didn’t get any 2c coverage support on either receiver, or stop the big play.

    What can you say about Prater. Enough already, the guy’s confidence is shattered. What does he do in practice anyway?

    I just hope these guys show up next week.

  • Broncoireland

    Guys, why is the offence immune from critism, im not on here to defend the defense but the offence put up 10 points and everyone on here is ripping the D and no mention of the Offence!! play calling on the offence was horrible, im an armchair fan and i know what is coming, screen pass out in the flat that maybe got us minus 20 yards total yesterday?? do you think opposing D co-ordinators know whats coming? im a huge cutler fan but im sorry that INT was a disgrace, the time he had and he just decided, ive a huge arm and im going to squeeze it into a non existent window with 3 defenders within 3 yards of the receiver and wow everyone with the impossible instead of taking the 6/8 yard completion to the rb in front of him. Look, we played a poor game on both sides of the ball, more so on the offence and we were beat by a better football team, theres no shame in that either, they are better than about 28 other nfl teams. lets rebound and beat the bills and dolts

  • kerry

    come on everybody, say the REAL reason for this teams terrible preperation. Mike Shanahan. this team was completely out of focus and grossly underprepared for this game. the terrible gameplan not Slowiks fault, Dennisons fault or anyone elses fault but Mike Shanahan’s. the title says “Back to Reality” that would have to mean the Broncos were above reality, when in fact they never left. everybody was so happy about BARELY beating a terrible Chiefs team. the reality is that the Broncos are very mediocre and IF they make the playoffs they will get beat easily by the Colts or Ravens.

  • broncoNM

    I do think the broncos should be treating this up coming week like a playoff game. We were flat yesterday so i would like to see our offense on full throttle and our defense with some intensity against the bills. If we just PUMMEL the bills and put an exclamation point on that game than all is well. Im not saying we cant beat SD in their backyard come wk 17 but it would be lame if it came down to that game. I agree with ireland about that cutler INT he definitely forced it. But with no run support the QB is probably going to force a couple of throws. I understand we did not have much time in this game to establish the run but if you toss the rock 40 times a game some will probably be forced. Eventually he will check down and take the yrds that are given to him. Cutler was not on yesterday and thats ok he cant toss for 300 yds every game. It would have been nice to get a solid running game going but carolina is a good team. They are a super bowl caliber team. I like pope out of the 3 RB’s we have left. I think he should tote the rock until he gets hurt which will probably be the 2nd Quarter next week. I also wouldnt mind seeing what Boyd can do. Who knows? Im with Bronx, Young did look a bit rusty and you cannot fumble the ball in your territory with :17 seconds left in the half. You just cant give away points for no reason and kill all momentum. Some how next week we make Losman scared and get some pressure on him. Force him to throw 1-2 picks that i know he is good for. Contain Lynch with our LB’s and put up 35-45 points against the Bills. I want that game over by halftime.

  • Andpark

    I agree with broncosNM, this Panther team is going to the Superbowl. I am bummed that we didn’t show up for the second half but the Panther team is very good. What I think happened was a poor day from Cutler and a lot can be attributed to the poor running game. I think we just need a week or 2 to figure it out. Pope seems like our best bet. What I missed the most was Hillis, can’t wait to see him back next year!

    Don’t sweat it, the Bills are no Panthers..

  • SivNiz

    and Adam is no “Pacman”

  • East

    The game was so depressing for me. I was lying on my death bed with the game not being aired in my area. With every movement of the blue bar from my laptops screen of my bones would ache just a little bit more.

  • cwilliams75

    I’m from Northeast Georgia and have been a Broncos fan for a while now as the Atlanta Falcons aren’t, well, a cool team to be a fan of. Payton Hillis was my best hopeful on my fantasy football team as he is an absolute brute! I play in a band here in Georgia and we wrote a song about Colorado called “Colorado Calling”. It’s on YouTube as a tribute to the beauty of your state. check it out sometime!

  • OC Bronco

    For the first time I actually agree with about every post. The Broncos were horrible and quit, Shanahan did not prepare the team, yet there were a few plays that if taken back it could have been a different game. Let’s not make excuses, we are not a good team. We are good enough to beat anyone, but good teams are consistent and we can’t argue that point.
    However, I love our future. We have a great young offense who desperately needs a RB that can stay healthy and that’s it. Our Defense needs 1 solid pass rusher, a middle linebacker and 1 safety as I think Josh Barrett has some real potential. That and possibly a new coach but who knows what Slowik can do with some talent.
    Safeties are by far the safest of first round picks. I like someone’s post of Taylor Mays (USC) he is a stud. But otherwise I am a fan of more picks not high picks. Just look at the difference of what Miami is paying for Long vs. what we are paying for Clady. Look at the difference that Brandon Marshall received vs. a 1st rounder. Trade down and get more picks. There are too many busts such as Jarvis Moss who will hopefully be decent – but not for what we gave up and paid him.
    Here’s to a big week against Buffalo, who will be mad as hornets, after one of the worst coaching blunders of the year….

  • robtink242

    hey this is the only broncos game i missed for the season. WHAT THE HELL HAPPEN?!

  • robtink242

    I’ve calm down. OC Bronco i agree with you but if there are any coaching changes it should be DC. and as much as i like Mays he’ll be long gone.

    now if we trade bly, boss and jarvis for some draft pics or personel(perfered draft picks) we can bring in Spikes from from florida.

    i pray Champ will be ready for the bills. Especially if lossmans there.

  • Socal Den Fan

    How long will it take for Cutler to learn his lesson? He doesn’t have a running game and still he tries to force a pass and it gets picked. You would think this guy would say it’s all up to me maybe I should take the smart pass and throw it short and gain some yards rather than tring to make the perfect pass.Don’t get me wrong I really think he is going to be a great QB but come on Jay learn from your mistakes and don’t keep making them. He won’t be a top teir QB until he learns to take what the defense gives you and take care of the ball.As for the defense I agree we need to find a good d coordinator and let him build it with the right players until Shanny comes to realize he needs someone that knows what they are doing and let him go to work we will always have a bad defense. He also needs to give that guy some time to build that defense rome was not built in a day it’s going to take time to build it right.

  • broncobobmeridian

    If we make it to the playoffs, it will be a disaster. Our luck we would have to play the Colts..Do I need to say more. Payton would sit back there all day until someone got open. Final score: Colts 78 Broncos 17. Prater misses 5 FG’s between 40-49 yards. Maybe Bell needs some help at mall selling phones.

  • olen

    Lets see play the Bills win but then play the guys in California lose but keep remembering we are resting up for the play offs and going in with our opponents not respecting us (we win). The next game of the playoff we also win because our opponent still does not respect us thinking that we lucked out this far (we also win this). The next game is also won by us because the other team still does not expect us to win. Notice that about everybody is just about healed. Plus where are the Broncos in the draft with their current record ? They do not wasnt to win too many and also win the big one. Just thinking of a possible reason they have played so wierd.

  • olen

    Lets see play the Bills win but then play the guys in California lose but keep remembering we are resting up for the play offs and going in with our opponents not respecting us (we win). The next game of the playoff we also win because our opponent still does not respect us thinking that we lucked out this far (we also win this). The next game is also won by us because the other team still does not expect us to win. Notice that about everybody is just about healed. Plus where are the Broncos in the draft with their current record ? They do not want to win too many and also win the big one. Just thinking of a possible reason they have played so wierd.

  • Horvil Tiki

    Shanhan say guy, I not need to motivat team. Team guy player done motivat enough just be in NFL player. He sayed this guy,. I heared it. Shanhan must show the firey guy. Must get all kind of pist off guy. Was disgrace. The clady show up, cant faults the clady guy. tated bell selfin young go down to easy. Slefin young go down from finger tackle. i saw it guy, Come on guy lets go. The Cutsper was flat, when the custper flat they is go no where guy. none
    If the custper offence not rolling cant count on this defence guy. They have has the jon eggnburger pass rusht guy. he is sack MASTER guy. I is kidding this. cant put pessure on defence, not this defence guy. The cuspter must roll he offence move chane makey enemy team defence all kind of tired. Bronco not score 30 pont we is in for long day guy. was all kind of mess up defence why they not double cover shadow blanketedthe steve smithf. I unaccept

  • AKscott

    well said

  • jchase8410

    Olen, while I do give you punts for creativity, that has to be one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve ever read on here.
    For everyone blaming Jay…give me a break! If he drops back to pass 50 times in a game, and only throws 1 int how can you be mad? Seriously, with the Broncos offense as one dimentional as it is, the defense can drop as many people into coverage as they want, and let their D-line rush without worrying about gap responsibility. That means he has less time to make a decision, as seen by the 3 sacks, with more people in coverage. That being said I praise Jay for his efforts. The running game is atrocious, which leads to more pass attempts, which in turn leads to greater risk for a quarterback. Now pair that with playing from behind, trying to spark your team with a great play. Interceptions are going to happen if you can’t run the ball.

  • Awesome, Austin

    Really it is unrealistic to think of losing as many running backs as Denver has lost in a season and still have a competitive team. When the eagles lose Westbrook they look pitiful but we have still come out competitive when losing tons of guys. No matter if you guys don’t want to blame injures or not you have to believe that is going to catch up with the offense. If only because the players have not had time to get cohesive play with each other. I can see why you would want to put the ball in the air because of not knowing how your rbs are going to play but, I think in order for Denver to win then they have to keep running the ball with whoever they have, after all they still have the same offense line, but without the running game Shanys offensive system just does not work. So they better fine someone quick that can one-cut and go.

  • Awesome, Austin

    *find not fine

  • broncoNM

    jchase i got your back here. Cutler is shattering records in only his 3rd season. He is mobile with a rocket arm and he makes plays. I could not be more excited/pleased with how cutler has played and handled himself this year. He can deliver a touch pass or fit the ball into tight windows. A consistant run game is all this offense needs to bring us back to the glory days of ’97-’98. Clady and the rest of the hogmollies are a big peice of the puzzle that we got figured out. Now all we need is a 2008 version of TD. All cutler needs is a run game to compliment his skills and relieve some pressure. Jay plays like its all up to him because it is all up to him.
    I agree w/ most people that i would be open to a D cordinator change. Slowik just doesnt do it for me. Make one more change and then stick with him. Like most have posted let the DC choose his players and let him figure it out. Mike Nolan sounds good to me. But give him 3 yrs to get his Defense set. To be honest if we do get a new DC i think he is actually inheriting a good defense. I think we are 2 players from being a top ten Defense.

  • MIAbronco

    horvils comments are not funny,

  • Socal Den Fan

    Jchase I can understand your point but Jay continues to make the same mistakes time after time. Knowing you don’t have a running game should be even more of a an indication that he needs to play smart there were players open underneath he just went for the deeper pass and threw into double coverage when is should of dumped it off. We are looking at the playoffs and if we don’t want to be beaten again all I’m saying is jay needs to play smart football .He has all the tools to be a great QB now he needs to learn how to play smart

  • Awesome, Austin

    I agree Socal, you hardly ever see Jay go to the rbs or dumpoff guys, and that is where many yards that keep drives going are made.