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Published on 01/13/2013 at Sun Jan 13 05:12.
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(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

There’s no sugarcoating this one, Denver Broncos fans. It’s 1996 all over again.

This one stings.

The Broncos are not Super Bowl bound. The Broncos are not preparing to host an AFC Championship Game next week. The Broncos have one-and-blundered a playoff game and are one-and-done.

The Denver Broncos, 13-3, winners of 11 straight, and first seed in the AFC, are done. The Baltimore Ravens edged them in a double overtime game in the divisional playoffs. Let’s break it down after the jump.

The Good

1. Trindon Holliday. The specialist set two separate playoff records today with his punt and kick returns for touchdowns. Holliday, who had been struggling with ball security as the regular season reached its conclusion, proved to be the most dangerous weapon for the Broncos Saturday afternoon. Without his 14 points, this may have been a blowout loss.

2. Ronnie Hillman. Of all the people to carry this team on his back, who would have thought it would be this rookie? Another young player struggling with ball security near season’s end, Hillman rose to this playoff occasion, especially in the second half.

3. Wesley Woodyard. He balled out. Woodyard seemed to be on a different level today. It felt like half of his defensive teammates were choking with nervousness while Woodyard rose to the occasion. He gave his all, every single play.

The Bad

1. The officiating. Can we have the replacement refs back now? This was the most atrociously called game I have seen in some time. Phantom PI’s called against the Broncos, extending Ravens drives. No flag for real PI’s against the Ravens, resulting in at least one Peyton Manning interception. Terrible delays in the game as of the officiating crew struggled to communicate with each other and to the fans. A complete blind eye to the holds against Elvis Dumervil. Questionable play reviews, and a clear favoritism toward the traveling underdogs.

2. The offensive playcalling. All week leading up to the game, media had been praising the chemistry of Peyton Manning to his receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Yet, when game time came, it felt like the Broncos had forgotten that connection altogether. The Broncos were conservative — painfully so — and never went for the Ravens’ jugular, despite having a lead most of the game. They ran and dumped off and ran and ran again, when this season had been built on the arm of Peyton Manning. With three minutes to play and one first down to go from a victory, the team should have relied on Manning’s arm at least once, rather than running on every down to eliminate 30 more seconds of clock time. They should have been bold. They should have been aggressive. They should have let Peyton win the game.

3. The defensive execution. If it wasn’t for the big plays the defense allowed, the Broncos would be preparing for the final round of the playoffs next Sunday. The Broncos failed to consistently pressure Joe Flacco. The secondary allowed receivers to get behind them, leading to touchdowns. Ray Rice broke into the backfield and proved too slippery to take down right away. Few defensive players played with any consistency Saturday. It was a blight on an otherwise successful season.

The Heartbreaking

1. Rahim Moore. Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post is already calling it the worst play in franchise history. It’s hard to come up with something worse. All Moore had to do was the one and first job of every safety in the NFL — not let the wide receiver behind him. Instead, Moore did, and even when Joe Flacco‘s Hail Mary pass hung in the air, Moore tried to backpedal to make a play instead of sprinting to get in coverage, an egregious error that led to the tying score with just over 30 seconds left in the game. The Broncos and Ravens had no business going into overtime — basic defensive fundamentals would have prevented that.

2. Champ Bailey Champ remains one of the most consistent, hard-to-beat cornerbacks in the NFL, despite his age, but Saturday was an exception. Champ was beaten, plain and simple, and it was difficult to watch.

3. Peyton Manning.. The throw across his body that was intercepted to end the game. After so many years and so many throws in this league, it’s hard to accept that that throw was his last of the 2012 season. Manning needs to stop trying so hard to make a play in the playoffs, and let his team naturally rise up to make plays for him. He needs to talk to John Elway. More.

4. Taking a knee. You have 31 seconds left, with two timeouts, and you take a knee to go into overtime. Ridiculous, John Fox. Utterly ridiculous. Go for the throat next time.

It was a great year boys — a great year until Saturday’s terrible ending, wiping out a successful season. This won’t be remembered for the 11 straight wins. It won’t be remembered for the 13-3 record or the best regular season in the entire NFL. It will be remembered for the heartbreaking loss in the divisional round of the playoffs.

2012 is 1996 all over again.

Hopefully the sting of this year has the same effect it did then. Go Broncos, 2013.

  • TheTroglodyte

    I’m sure technically it was McCoy but his job is to do what the HC wants. No way under a Harbaugh, Billichick, Mike Smith, etc those calls aren’t more aggressive.

    John Fox’s teams play to not lose. They don’t play to win.

    This article sums it up nicely. Even though it only points out 3 specific major examples, this playstyle affects how the entire game is played. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000125374/article/denver-broncos-john-fox-coached-not-to-lose-game

  • jlivings

    Good point. I agree all those calls should’ve been handled the opposite way. But I’m thinking Fox is still the right man for the job, even with his history of being conservative.

    In reality, if we did move to someone else, who would it be? Who would be a better option at HC?

    Another question I’d have is what kind of veto power Manning has over these calls? I suppose little because he seemed to be upset about them…

  • TheTroglodyte

    We are actually in agreement over keeping Fox as I’m not on board the fire Fox movement.

    Unless we had someone proven whom we really liked, ready to replace him, it would be crazy to fire the guy and then look for a new coach.

    Personally, I’d dig seeing Jon Gruden in orange and blue in the near future though.

  • Doom92

    IO as well had an uneasy feeling from the start… Even scoring so early it just didnt feel right!

  • http://thingsatrexdoes.tumblr.com Mike Birtwistle

    That Moore play wasn’t even the worst post season play.

    Off the top of my head does anyone remember a CB and Safety arguing over who should’ve been covering an Indy reciever who then stood up and ran it in. That was much worse.

  • http://thingsatrexdoes.tumblr.com Mike Birtwistle

    You sound like a nice guy / girl. We should be friends

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Not at all after that first score I was excited, but I knew smtg wasn’t right.

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Just wondering did anybody recognize the irony between Peyton’s interception last night and Farves in the playoffs his first year with the Vikings?

  • cdubarkansasrep

    We should have destroyed them none of the game makes sence.

  • Doom92

    Good Post Anthony – I was mega upset yesterday and am still in denial/shock but I will never trust in Fox again. SOme one asked if it was really him calling the plays, well of course over the entire game no he isn’t, but no one should fool them selfs into thinking that he doesn’t walk over to Mikey and say keep it on the ground at crucial times, I promise you he does.

    With that said I agree, its football and many different things happen. To say oh well Peyton sucks and cant win a play off is just strait up stupid, if that was the case he wouldn’t have a ring. Its the same as saying the Ravens have never beaten Peyton… well they have now. Superstition is for weak minded people, it has nothing to do with who wins or who looses. Good or bad calls on the other hand do.

    This was HANDS down a better season than ANY of us (especially on here) thought it would be. I remember when we were 2-3 and many if not most of the people on here were ready to throw Peyton away and cash it in then so yes we far exceeded expectations. Personally I think we will only get better from here, any one can loose and any one can win, for us it clearly was not meant to be this year.

    Moving on…
    Draft FA wish list:
    - Big strong doable running back – 100% agree. Ronnie would benefit greatly from this.
    - O-line depth – Yeah Manny isn’t going to cut it any longer.
    - QB… for the future. Not really impressed by Oswieler – Me either, if at any time we would have had to count on him it would have met with much much worse results than loosing the play off game.
    - Corners – Yeah Champ needs to move to safety now, its that time. Many will say no but the WR he will be going against will only become more like Smith, not less. Still love Champ being a Bronco even though he was Chump yesterday.
    - Safety – Very much a need and not knee jerk from yesterday.
    - Kicker – Prater has been done for a while!!!
    - D-line depth – These guys surprised the hell out of me this year, but its still a need.
    - MLB – yes, yes and triple yes!!!

    I truly do believe that we will once again be better next year, which should be sc ary to the rest of the league. However Elway 100% has to ask some one, “What the hell was that running shit about when we could put the game away”. Can any one here remember when John wouldn’t have tried to put it away in that same spot? No. Me either!

  • cdubarkansasrep

    well I sit on the fence about firing Fox. If you actually look at the beginning of the season how many times did we find ourselves behind going into half time, because fox was being conservative. Later on during the Secound half of the season we got aggressive and started hurting teams. This league is a league of big plays now if you can’t get them then you won’t survive!

  • cdubarkansasrep

    funny thing is I was seein more of a pash rush with ayers!

  • komul

    awesome season … too bad they choked in the playoffs…30 seconds left and 2 time outs we take a knee … we need a coach whos not scared in pressure situations

  • http://www.facebook.com/caseydc78 Casey D Cavallero

    This was just a horribly played game all around. You can’t put all the blame on any one player. If it hadn’t been for Holliday, they would have gotten blown out. If Matt Prater had made that easy field goal, Broncos win. If Bailey hadn’t been beaten, not once but TWICE!! If Manning hadn’t thrown 2 interceptions. And where were Miller and Dumervil at? There’s plenty of blame to go around for this one. Don’t feel too bad Rahim Moore, but that was a horrible play and unfortunately for you that will make you the Denver Broncos goat for a long time. This really looked like the best overall Broncos team that we have possibly ever had. Hopefully they can fix some things and come back next year better than ever.

  • gmac5

    Could that scenario in the Seattle Atlanta game been any more similiar to yesterday? I realize that they weren’t tied, however, 2 timeouts 30 seconds all you need is a field goal. John Fox should take notes. I am a football coach and I hate knee jerk reactions, but John Fox’s conservatism is sickening to me. Just flat out sickening. We didn’t play great, but you have to TAKE the win. It was there on a silver platter with the 3rd and 7 and we still had a shot at the end of regulation. Disgusting

  • http://www.facebook.com/carlo.scuri.10 Carlo Scuri

    no one of the plays you talk has been nearly as important or easy like that one by Moore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carlo.scuri.10 Carlo Scuri

    maybe John Fox can learn from Mike Smith that with 30 seconds and 2 timeout you can kick the game winning field goal instead of taking a knee.

  • jlivings

    Almost the exact same situation. Remarkable

  • jlivings

    Don’t know how well Gruden and Manning would mesh, but I like Gruden as a coach.

  • anthony33

    Doom
    I feel your pain borther. Have to try and put things into perspective to keep from going nuts.
    FYI… living now in the Seattle region, I have adopted the Seahawks as my NFC team (nothing like the Broncos of couse, but like them). Watched the game today with some close friends that are from here. Damn near the indentical ending as yesterday. Not a good weekend for 33 :-)

  • Doom92

    I know when it came down and there was 31 seconds to go I said “here we go again”…lol.

  • Brian

    Whoever said I was a Charger fan? What is wrong with you people?

  • Army

    Of course, he’s not getting fired. Broncos had a great year, but c’mon man, this is the playoffs, win or go home! Playing conservative doesn’t work. Need to play aggressive and take some chances. It really shows how the team plays, no hurry up offense, no deep passes. You think they would make adjustments on the second half but stuck to the same game plan. They had that game won and should be moving to the next round but John Fox being conservative cost them the game. He should man up and admit he messed up but he’s not. They’re already looking forward to next year season. Stupid, should handle the task on hand, the present and not the future! He still need to be slapped up.

  • Army

    Yes, exactly! Tie or not still had time in the game to do something to win the game. Stupid John Fox.

  • anthony33

    That it was… the difference was a coach playing to win vs. one playing not to lose. In Fox’s presser he referred to that sitiuation by saying something bad (like the TD on the previous play ) could have happened. Clearly playing not to lose. UUUGGGHHH.

  • http://www.pennington.net/ Mike

    Good comments Kyle… in addition, I was surprised that we did not try to ice rookie kicker Justin Tucker with a timeout just before he kicked… this was one of Shanahan’s trademark moves; while Fox might not have the tribal knowledge of this tactic, I’m disappointed that Elway didn’t press for that.

  • Cheyenne Kid

    I agree with everthing you wrote. All of that happened and the Ravens barely edged in double overtime. If just a fraction of the bad calld had mot happened;for example;it would have been a Bronco victory. And if Rahim had made the right decision on coverge it would’ve be a win in regulation. That is why it left us all with a bad taste in our mouth. Let’s hope all the key players will return and John Elway gets a great crop of draftees and free agents to keep building a Champioship Team. And losing like that should motivate the team next season!

    lll

  • Cheyenne Kid

    F off whoever your are. Trolls are scum and act just like a demon whose only pleasure derives out of causing evil. I don’t care what your team is,spend your damn time on their sites!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    *SMH* The officiating WAS bad, but it wasn’t bad in a one sided way. There were blown calls for and against both sides. All of these ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are pointless. Bottom line, Ravens spotted the Broncos 2 TDs and still won the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    TEBOW! TEBOW! TE… oh, wait…

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    Honestly I don’t put it on Miller and Dumerville at all. This O Line for the Ravens is what it should have been all year. Bryant McKinnie should have been at left tackle since the beginning of the season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    I agree, fire him and let the Chargers take the division back. Or maybe hand it to Andy Reid and the Chiefs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    SMH. Seriously?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    I just want you all to know that all that pain you guys are feeling is in equal measure to our elation. This is just GREAT! Go Ravens!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    Have you considered that without him you guys might not have even made it to the playoffs, let alone the first seed?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.newman.52643 Alex Newman

    ROFL! GO RAVENS!!!

  • Bryan

    Totally different situation. Atlanta was down 1 point. Denver was tied. The urgency was higher for Atlanta if they wanted to win.

  • Army

    Yeah, great idea but the Ravens already had a practice kick in front of the confused refs. That’s like sizing up the kick, definitely not accepted, maybe before the game but during the game, should be penalty for that! Broncos beat themselves, Stupid Broncos!

  • anthony33

    Good point Bryan. Major difference. Still feels like we played it not to lose.

  • ghostpepper

    And don’t forget the missed field goal by Prater. That would have been the score needed to keep the game from going into overtime.

  • Army

    Yes, Broncos go clean out your locker because there’s no next game, thanks to, who else, the head coach John Fox for being stupid and playing conservative!

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Seriously what? Not making any excuses if that’s what your trying To imply? I’m just stating facts we played a bad game at the wrong time, inwhich the refs didn’t help much. Blatant pass interference calls not being called, no holding flags. Don’t get me wrong I grew up playing football and like my coaches said” you can’t say the refs were the reason you lost, because you were the one who put yourself in the position.” Leave it all on the field and finsh the team early! Something that we didn’t accomplish which got us beat.

  • Gary_in_SD

    The missed P.I. on the pick-six interception; The blown tuck rule call; The clearly dropped pass by Boldin… So what part of Maryland did the head referee grow up in I wonder?

  • Gary_in_SD

    Another foolish decision by Fox I say. To go for it or punt would have been much smarter. Fifty plus yard field goals in those weather/field conditions should only happen with seconds left on the clock for either half.

  • Gary_in_SD

    Agreed, of course the Broncos go for it there if they were trailing instead of being tied. Atlanta was very lucky that Seattle’s secondary played so horribly in those two plays. They should be just as ashamed as the Broncos’ secondary for that play right before the end of regulation.

  • Gary_in_SD

    I can forgive him for that. Trying to stretch the field in that short of time presents a major risk factor. The defense will be playing back (as Seattle should have been), but a risk that Atlanta had no choice but to try… Not passing on 3 and 7 with a chance to salt the game away was unforgivable in my eyes though. Elway to Sharpe ring a bell?

  • http://www.broncotalk.net Josh Temple

    The guy steps up in big games, he’s just not consistent.

  • scoober

    Carter was just as guilty as Moore on that play. He was covering no-one.