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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.

  • Josh Temple

    Stated all too well my friend.

  • areferee

    Great summation on a very difficult topic, Kyle. I agree with you on every point. I would add only: “the ghost that was Von Miller”. Whether you add it under bad or heartbreaking; he wasn’t there as he was all season. With the exceptions you mentioned, this was a total team letdown.

  • 350legend

    GM MileHigh! With all the Excuses and finger Pointing,@ the end of the day we 1 and done! PERIOD! I’m here @ work still stunned for last night loss! Hopefully we won’t make these same mistakes next year! Bronco Fan from NY, FOR LIFE!!!!

  • Carlo Scuri

    The defensive gamplan is the first thing to blame. Torrey Smith is one of the fastest guy in the leauge, it’s not Champ fault if he’s 34 years old. All day Mike Adams went to double team the tight end and Champ was always in single coverage against Smith, this is not Champ fault it’s a stupid Del Rio gameplan. On offense it has been clearly a “Martyball” type of approach by John Fox, and in the playoffs only the braves survive. Rahim Moore needs to be cut today, after what he did in the last play of regulation.

  • Bryan

    Very well said Kyle.

    I complained about the officiating at the time, and yes there were some calls that should have/shouldn’t have been called, but that’s what happens when you let ref’s decide games. This is the playoffs after all.

    The conservative play calling was really was shocked me. I know Fox/PM are going to be fielding the heat but when you play to NOT lose the game, you’ll usually find yourself losing the game. They surely didn’t play like they wanted to win.

    I put this loss solely on the defense. There’s the obvious stuff…the pass over Rahim Moore and Champ getting scorched, TWICE,…but this defense gave up big play after big play and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. And this is what happens when you let teams hang around.

  • areferee


    Maybe former Bronco Gary Kubiak can pick up the tarnished orange mantle and salvage a little Mile High pride.

  • Army

    Clearly Broncos should do something about John Fox, he’s an idiot! And should fire his ass period. All they need is the first down and the game is over but they run the ball three times with third string running back, stupid. What the hell is Manning for? At least, throw a quick short pass, that’s what Manning been doing all game long, short passes, no deep balls. WTF! Then give the ball back to the Ravens and expect the defense can hold them? Wrong, Another stupid call. After the defense getting beat up all game long. With less than a minute left in the game and with two time out, you’ll have Manning take a knee? Another stupid call. At least try something. You have veteran quarterback. Very bad management and these guys are professional too, definitely unacceptable!

    What’s up with that practice kick by the Ravens? The Ref’s should be fine or something.

  • Pete Baron

    I’m completely out of words… I tried, I really tried to type at least 1 word about this game yesterday, but the combination of denial and disappointment were too much for me to overcome.

    I will however, refer to Rahim “The Dream” Moore as Rahim “The Dream Crusher” Moore until he redeems himself in the playoffs next year.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Peyton Manning sucks in the playoffs when his team needs him the most. Period. He always has and he always will. The guy is so anti clutch when it matters the most it’s pathetic.

    Not that it should have ever gotten to that point!

    John Fox has no business coaching in the NFL. His ultra scared mentality would have been a great formula for success in 1965. In today’s NFL it’s a recipe for disaster.

    Manning and Fox are exactly who I thought they were.

    Our secondary in general and Rahim Moore in particular, WTF!!!!!!!!

    This article sums it up pretty well.

  • Bryan

    I’m actually going to pull for Seattle at this point. They’re a fun team to watch. But really, I’m going to be rooting for whoever plays NE.

  • Bryan

    Cut Rahim Moore because of one play? I think that’s a total knee jerk reaction there. He was one of the best defenders and tacklers on our team this year. Explain to me how making a move like that would help this team at all?
    We’ll be getting Quinton Carter back next season which will be huge because I think Mike Adams is a bigger liability than Rahim Moore.

  • Brian

    Congratulations Bronco Fans. Once again you’ve partaken of the orange kool aid and fallen head over heels in love with your team’s chances of ultimate success—and once again you’ve been jilted! This year’s level of hubris exceeded all previous years, with your local talk show airwaves filled with pompous, homer blowhards who all drank heavily from the punch bowl of self-deception. Unfortunately, you’ll learn nothing from your arrogance and obnoxious behavior—and next year will bring more of the same, including the end result. Eat crow Denver!

  • Toxik Zine

    Go back to bed Charger fanboy

  • jlivings

    Bad decisions no doubt about it, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Fox has been great this year. But I do agree we put too much faith in the D at the end. There is a reason we got a Hall of Fame QB — put it in his hands!

  • jlivings

    Agreed. I think Moore has actually made big strides this year. Yes, that play was awful, but he wasn’t the only player on this team who had a bad day yesterday…

  • Brian

    Intelligent comeback–I rest my case about Bronco fans.

  • jlivings

    I don’t know that our loss had as much to do with Fox’s ultra conservative play calling as it did with our turnovers. Was it 14 pts off turnovers? You will never win in the playoffs doing that. Fox isn’t responsible for those…Yes, he certainly should have put the ball in Manning’s hands at the end instead of running, but that’s not why we lost the game.

  • Toxik Zine

    nothing better to do then talk smak on another teams board?

  • Toxik Zine

    If your team went 13-3 into the playoffs you would feel pritty confident also.

  • TheTroglodyte

    17 points off turnovers and Fox’s conservative play calling had it’s fingerprints throughout that game not just at the end.

    No his conservative style didn’t singlehandedly lose that game. Peyton Manning’s beyond stupid throw at the end didn’t singlehandedly cost us the game. Moore letting Jacoby Jones run right past him with 35 seconds left didn’t singlehandedly cost us the game.

    We were outcoached and outplayed in every aspect except special teams.

  • Carlo Scuri

    that “one play” put the team out of the playoff, exactly the same things happened with the Ravens last year with Lee Evans and Cundiff. Moore had a good 2012 season after a terrible 2011, in playoffs a winning team needs big time players not big time loosers.

  • Carlo Scuri

    not to mention that te pick6 by Graham was a clear pass interference and before the second pick by Manning there was a 20 seconds late flag for a non existent holding against Kuper.

  • jlivings

    17 right, forget about the field goal. Fox was definitely conservative and it contributed to losing the game, I just don’t want to call for his head. He has done well this year IMO. Just needs to put a little more faith in Manning — Peyton’s performance notwithstanding.

  • TheTroglodyte

    If Fox leaned conservative I would say it’s an over reaction on my part. He is by far the most conservative coach in the game though. He is more conservative than Marty Shottenheimer was.

    I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt when he came to Denver but as I said, he is exactly who I thought he was. The only way that guy ever wins 3 consecutive postseason games is if the team does it despite him.

  • jlivings

    Maybe. I just don’t see Fox as the problem.

  • paula

    Helpful comments. Despite poor officiating and blown plays. I missed the pizazz. The game was too conservative for a playoff game. No second chances here.

  • Roger Christie

    The refs were bad both ways. THis one is one Fox and Peyton. And Raihim of course.

    Peyton has never been good in the cold and bad weather, and it looks as though his neck injury has made that problem worse. His arm looked pretty weak to me. He didn’t take any shots downfield at all.

  • Roger Christie

    Fox would do well to heed Bill Belichick’s comment from earlier in the week: You don’t win playoff football by sitting in your foxhole. You have to attack the other team.

  • anthony33

    Pure heartbreak coming out in all these comments. At the end of the day it’s just football, and in football one team loses. Plenty of blame to go around for sure, but bottom line is was multiple things. Can’t lay blame on one of two players or coaches. It just didn’t work out and luck, yes pure luck, was with the Ravens yesterday. Still a much better season than I ever anticipated.

    As for Tebow’s brother… GFY idiot.

    Draft FA wish list:
    – Big strong duable running back
    – O-line depth
    – QB… for the future. Not really impressed by Oswieler
    – Corners
    – Safety
    – Kicker
    – D-line depth
    – MLB

  • Bryan

    Chris Harris had an INT in his hands and dropped it, cut him. Cut Champ for giving up 2 TD’s. Cut Von Miller for not getting more pressure on Flacco. Cut Mike Adams for leaving Champ on an island. Cut Prater for screwing up the FG…ok, well… this part may actually happen.
    The only way you become a big time player is suffering through big time losses.

  • Bryan

    Believe this guy…his team knows all about losing the big games.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Well he ain’t going anywhere so I hope you are right. Other than his ridiculously conservative style and player favortisim, I like Fox. He’s a good fundamentals coach and I think a pretty good leader. I just can’t get over the first two problems.

  • chrislynch

    And let’s not forget that Miller and Doom couldn’t get to Flacco. I mean, he didn’t light up the passing game with consistency, but he beat the secondary with some very huge plays.

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Trog I feel your pain! The bad part is my buddy called this out when Fox first came to Denver. My buddy is huge panthers fan and he said word for word ” good luck winning a playoff game, with our x father time coach!”. It was horrible man HORRIBLE sitting there watChing them run hillman (who only weighs a buck fifty it seems)up the middle against a Baltimore D.

  • chrislynch

    I’d actually say our need is DB, then RB, then D-Line. The FEW times Flacco was under duress, the secondary was covering very well, and both Miller and Doom were able to affect Flacco’s passing attempts.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Yeah it was! I do have to give Hillman credit, for his part he played great. It was just the wrong freaking call to keep making as a coach.

  • chrislynch

    Completely disagree with you on your analysis of Peyton’s throwing in cold weather. DT and Decker were non-existent in the second half. With the exception of one bubble-screen to DT for a TD, where the hell were those plays? Where were the quick slants? The Ravens were certainly blitzing a number of times in that game.

  • Ricky Brisse

    AGREE, Fox is conservative. He was last season, this season and will be for the future. John Elway and Manning should be in his face pissed off about his decisions.

  • chrislynch

    So, being a Charger fan you must have had, to use your words, “Arrogant and obnoxious behavior” when they were winning the AFC West and heading into the playoffs, and every one of those years being labeled “the best football team on paper.” Yet, how many times did they get to the SB, let alone win one? Oh, that’s right. That would be none. I’d worry more about your team, then the Broncos. It’s going to be a while until the vaunted San Diego Sparklers/Dis-chargers get back into a winning season.

  • chrislynch

    You missed another point. Where were Decker and DT in the second half??? I mean, Hillman was running the ball pretty well. But they got away from their passing game, which was a serious mismatch against the Ravens. Only a single bubble screen attempt (which did go for a TD), no slants, no misdirection plays.

  • Ricky Brisse

    Can’t respect your comments when you can only put your first name. Say shit and back it up with your name.

  • cdubarkansasrep

    Nfl wanted Ray Lewis to leave with a memorable momment. It happen from bad calls to the bad play calling…… This game just felt surreal, for some reason I had this feeling the whole game we were going to lose. As a bronco fan I feel like I have this huge empty void and bad taste in my mouth. There is no way we should have lost this game, but we found a way to lose it!

    P.s B-more fans are the best, but worse friends to have my Facebook has been nonstop since that last Secound last night.

  • tslck

    Fox is an idiot for having Manning take a knee with 30 seconds and 2 timeouts. I am hoping Elway will be as critical on both Fox and Bailey as he was with Tebow.

  • Bryan

    Aside from that nice bubble screen, there wasn’t anything going on in the second half passing game. I don’t know if PM was gun shy or what, but he kept checking down to the RB. You have two, big, strong, physical WR’s in Decker and DT…you have to give them a chance to make a play.

  • jlivings

    Yes, zero pass rush.

  • jlivings

    So was Fox making these calls or McCoy?

  • jlivings

    Manning did say they played a lot of cover2 man which takes away the deep threat. But I agree, gotta throw it up there a couple times to keep them honest and see of DT can use his size advantage to make a play

  • jlivings

    I’d almost put S at number one priority. Maybe that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to yesterday…

  • jlivings

    I only saw one throw that looked weak and stoke ended up making the catch anyway…I think taking no shots had more to do with coverage

  • walter

    You r nothing but a crybaby. blaming officials, Peyton Manning who’s HOF. sounds like u were counting on a broncos victory and now all u have left is ur pathetic life.