CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Lingering disappointment not lineup changes defined Gary Kubiak's press conference Monday less than 24 hours after the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated the Broncos from the postseason.
Kubiak would like to "play everybody" in the season finale, but made no official decision on whether to start rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch. It would make sense to provide additional reps for the first-round pick with the Broncos reduced to a spoiler role.
"There's no downside, but we have to look at some things," Kubiak said, hinting toward a revealed blueprint when the players return to Dove Valley on Wednesday. "We are pushing everybody to play."
Lynch owns a 1-1 mark as a starter, but played his best in a relief effort at Tampa Bay. The victory over the Buccaneers was one of two against teams with winning records this season.
The Broncos shifted their focus to 2017 after their humiliating 33-10 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. But it's not as easy as just shoving all the young guys to the top of the depth chart. The Broncos have four players in the concussion protocol -- safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Kayvon Webster and tight ends Virgil Green and A.J. Derby -- and defensive end Derek Wolfe's season could be over with his latest neck injury. Linebacker Brandon Marshall's status is also uncertain because of his left hamstring issue.
While the offensive line will likely feature snaps for some other players -- guards Connor McGovern, Billy Turner, perhaps -- Kubiak anticipates center Matt Paradis starting. Paradis, Kubiak revealed for the first time Monday, will require offseason surgery on his hip. Paradis has been unable to practice regularly for months, but has produced a strong season, earning Pro Bowl alternate honors in his second year as a starter.
Kubiak understood the questions about the roster, but wasn't prepared to provide assessments on players with one game remaining Sunday against Oakland. Kubiak remains encouraged by what he's seen from quarterback Trevor Siemian this season. However, he admitted the Kansas City performance failed to meet expectations. Siemian played his worst game as a Bronco, completing 17 of 43 passes for 183 yards and an interception.
"It stinks," Siemian said. "We are obviously frustrated."
Siemian misfired repeatedly, and looked uncomfortable and shaken throughout the game.
"That was not one of his best outings," Kubiak said. "He would be the first to tell you he's got to play a hell of a lot better."
Any evaluation of Siemian requires nuance because of the poor offensive line play this season. The Broncos rank fifth worst in rushing yards per game at 89.4. The 40 sacks allowed is also fifth worst. Denver's inability to lead in games affected how opponents played them. But the bottom line is the offense fizzled, scoring two touchdowns in the last 14 quarters. The last time the Broncos scored 10 or fewer points in three straight games was 1966.
"There’s been no consistency (in the run game). Other than to say I am disappointed, I don’t have much for you," Kubiak said. "It was a group effort (against Chiefs). It was not good enough as a group -- coaches or players."
Kubiak pointed to the Week 12 home loss against the Chiefs as a turning point. Before the game, an NFL source told Denver7 the season could spin on that night's outcome, pointing to the Broncos' precarious margin for error. With an eight-point lead with 3:12 remaining, the Broncos allowed a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. The Broncos lost in overtime.
They went from 7-3 and in control of their AFC West destiny to losing four of their final five games. Division play flipped on the Broncos this season. After winning all road games for five straight years, the Broncos failed to win a road game in the AFC West, losing at San Diego, Oakland and Kansas City. There continues to remain buzz about potential coaching staff changes or reassignments, but those conversations took a back seat until season's end.
"We just weren't good enough. We haven't been good enough all season," cornerback Chris Harris said. "Our run defense has been suspect the whole season (allowing 135.2 yards per game, fourth worst), and when you don't fix it and don't improve, this is what you get: no playoffs."