The Denver Broncos’ 2021 season is officially over.
OK, they still have one final game, against the Kansas City Chiefs. But at 7-9, Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs and the Chiefs are unquestionably the better team.
Today’s game was difficult against the Chargers for multiple reasons. Los Angeles is a better team with a better quarterback. And, they probably have a better head coach in Brandon Staley too.
Add on top of that the fact that Denver had 14 players land on the reserve/COVID-19 list before the game, so the Broncos were shockingly shorthanded.
Still, the Broncos were in the contest into the second half, although Fangio and his staff’s blunders sunk the team. It was a microcosm of why Fangio has to be let go at the end of this season, in one week from today. Let’s review where he and his staff were out-coached by the opposition.
Fangio loses another challenge
Whoever is upstairs telling the Broncos head coach to challenge plays needs to have their eyes checked. Or, maybe Fangio needs to change the expectations in terms of when that person believes the team should challenge.
Either way, he has been awful in terms of challenges during his three years as the team’s head coach. This year alone, the Broncos are now 1-of-8 on his attempts and 4-of-16 during his career with the team as the head man.
Today, Fangio challenged a run by Austin Ekeler, thinking — or maybe hoping — the running back’s knee was down. It clearly was not and the Broncos lost the challenge which was just insult to injury after his massive play.
Fangio goes for it on 4th and medium, but not 4th and goal
One of the criticisms of Fangio’s coaching in the first two years of his career was that he didn’t go for it on 4th down enough. Finally, this year, he’s gone for it much more. In fact, the team is 16-27 this year (59.3 percent) which is top-10 in the NFL.
Today, the team went for it on 4th and 6 from the Chargers’ 44 yard line and Drew Lock was sacked for a loss of 10 yards. Later in the first half, down 10-0, the Broncos went for it on 4th and goal from the 2 yard line and Kendall Hinton took a reverse and passed the ball to Lock who was short of the goal line. It was one of the few times all year the team ran a trick play and ironically, it didn’t work.
But then, down 20-3 in the third quarter, the Broncos had the ball with a 4th and goal at the 1 and Melvin Gordon scored. Unfortunately it was called back due to a holding penalty and the head coach decided to kick the field goal instead of go for it from six yards out.
You’re down 17 points, on the road in a game that could possibly save your job, and you kick the field goal there? Why?
Tom McMahon’s special teams gives up a return touchdown
Ironically, the Chargers returned the kickoff following that field goal 101 yards to the house for a touchdown.
That score pushed the game to 27-6 at the beginning of the 4th quarter, meaning it was all but over for the Broncos at that moment in time.
Tom McMahon’s special teams unit has been very bad for Fangio’s entire tenure, and yet, he was kept around. Then they not only gave up the 101-yard touchdown, but 148 total kick return yards today.
And those three headings above don’t even include offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was his usual bad self on Sunday. After the game, Ben Allbright shared something about the coordinator and his players:
Anytime you have players go directly to an OC and say Hey coach this isn't working here are some things we could try, and that OC blows them off by telling them they're the players it's their job to execute, Im the coach its my job to coach…you know he's not long for the job.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) January 2, 2022
No matter how one slices it, this season is ending in failure. The Broncos are on the outs of the postseason for a sixth straight time, which is unacceptable in terms of what Pat Bowlen saw as goals for the team.
Even though the team has improved on the defensive side of the ball during Fangio’s tenure, they have regressed offensively and have never even been mediocre on special teams.
If Fangio still had a chance to save his job going into this week, that should be over after this ugly loss to a marginally better team. Denver wasn’t just beaten, they were blown out 34-13.
Their season hopes crushed. And now the Broncos are a team which is ripe for change.