The Denver Broncos finished the 2023 NFL season with a losing record after losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 27-14 on Sunday. Sunday’s loss secured their seventh consecutive losing season with an 8-9 finish.

Broncos offense uninspiring in loss to Raiders

It didn’t matter if Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, or Peyton Manning were at quarterback; the Broncos offense would have struggled regardless. The Raiders generated relentless pressure on Stidham all afternoon in Sunday’s loss, with the starting quarterback being hit 11 times and sacked five times.

In the team’s season finale, Jerry Jeudy finally broke out with a few big plays, hauling in three catches for 79 yards and one touchdown. Sean Payton’s route designs freed Jeudy open on several crossing patterns and also an out-and-up concept that has been seen several times this year.

Overall, Denver’s offense found several opportunities to move the ball downfield, but Maxx Crosby’s consistent pressure presence was hard for them to overcome.

Crosby himself created havoc for Denver’s offensive line all day, specifically Cam Fleming, who started at right tackle in place of Mike McGlinchey, who was placed on injured reserve. The Raiders pass rusher was relentless all afternoon, accumulating three quarterback hits and one sack on Stidham.

Denver’s third-down struggles continued offensively as they finished 4-of-12 on the afternoon. One element that didn’t help them was that they faced several third and long situations consistently on Sunday, making the playcall decisions a little more difficult with Crosby bearing down.

With no consistent run game, Denver’s offensive flow struggled as they were more pass-heavy. On top of that, undrafted rookie free agent Jaleel McLaughlin suffered a concussion and was ruled out of the game, leaving the Broncos with just Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine.

Courtland Sutton left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return, forcing the Broncos to rely heavily on Brandon Johnson, Jeudy, and Lucas Krull in passing opportunities.

The theme for Denver’s offense was the same tone as it had been most of the season, especially in the second half. Sunday’s loss cemented the end of what was a roller-coaster season, and now bigger questions arise about the future of the offense, the quarterback position, and how the team can improve in 2024.

Broncos defense gets worn down by Raiders offense

The Broncos defense has been one of the league’s best units on third down this season, but Sunday’s game was a different story, seeing the Raiders convert a high rate of their third down opportunities in Sunday’s loss, going 7-of-13.

Denver found themselves gashed on the ground by Zamir White, who had more rushing yards (112) than the Broncos’ entire offense (48). Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell finished the game with a quarterback rating of 110.1, going 20-of-31 passing for 244 yards and two passing touchdowns.

The Broncos’ defense struggled consistently not only on third down but allowed some chunk plays to happen on first and second down, helping lead to an average output of 5.4 yards per play.

Too many explosive plays in the passing game allowed the Raiders to keep some of their drives alive where Denver needed to get a stop, resulting in the defense finding themselves unable to get off the field. In moments they did, the Broncos offense couldn’t find ways to put up points to capitalize.

For much of this season, the Broncos haven’t found a way to play complementary football, which showed in Sunday’s finale. As the offseason approaches, Denver’s defense could look drastically different this upcoming season, with several starters set to become unrestricted free agents.

8-9 is a disappointing way to cap off the season, including an eighth straight loss to the Raiders, but considering Denver’s previous 1-5 deficit, there will be some things the team can build on, but how much of that is sustainable with all of the forecasted changes and ripple effects heading the Broncos way.