DENVER, Colo. -- Sunday started out as a cool, pleasant day in Denver. Fans began arriving at 1:30 p.m. for the weekend's showcase game. Enthusiasm permeated the stadium, the Broncos wearing navy and preparing to leave the New York Giants red-faced.
Embarrassment lurked, but was stalking an unlikely victim: the Broncos.
They lost 23-10 at Mile High Stadium, clumsily falling toward their first home loss of the season.
"I commend them. They schemed up very well. They did some things we thought they would do. We didn't know who was playing where. But we can't make any excuses," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "It pisses me off. It was (BS)."
In game cluttered by ugliness and injuries, the only difficulty was identifying the nadir in the Broncos' defeat by the New York Giants.
Was it quarterback Trevor Siemian hurting his left shoulder on a pick six? Or receiver Emmanuel Sanders leaving in the third quarter with a cringe-worthy right ankle injury? Maybe you thought it was Brandon McManus missing his fifth field goal at home this season?
A little after 7:30 p.m., anger and concern intersected.
Siemian exited to the locker room in pain. Brock Osweiler entered. Brocktober lasted slightly shorter than Rocktober. Siemian returned, favoring his left arm, and sitting in the cockpit of a plane suddenly lost in flight with three consecutive road games looming.
A perplexing evening tilted toward humiliation in the second quarter. Siemian somehow missed Jenkins' spying. The Pro Bowl cornerback jumped Bennie Fowler's route. As he chased him down the right sideline, Siemian lowered his left shoulder in a failed tackle attempt. Jenkins scored his seventh touchdown, tied with Aqib Talib for most by a defender since 2012. The Broncos, meanwhile, had not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of the Raiders game as the fourth began. Jeff Heuerman finally ended the drought with a touchdown catch with 4:07 remaining.
"I can't turn the ball over," said Siemian, who insisted his left shoulder was fine. "We had chances (in the red zone), and we didn't get it done. You want to be balanced. You are not going to do that for 16 weeks. You have to be able to win multiple ways, and you see the good teams are able to do that."
There was nothing redeemable Sunday, only an injury report suddenly as long as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The NFL boasts no upsets. Forget the betting line. It's a league of parity. And, this week, anomalies. After six weeks, four games and three wins, the Broncos yielded points in the first quarter for the first time this season. Consider it foreshadowing on a night when they knew before kickoff that the firs-place Kansas Chiefs had lost.
The Giants, without star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall, knifed through the Broncos for 69 yards on 13 plays. Quarterback Eli Manning relied on his tight ends, including blurry rookie Evan Engram. The Broncos produced a third down stop on third-and-goal -- Shaq Barrett corraled Manning for his second sack -- as the Giants moved ahead 3-0 on Aldrick Rosa's 25-yard field goal. They never trailed.
The Broncos moved nowhere on their first possession and backward on their second, punting twice on ugly three-and-outs. Hardly the start expected for a Broncos team favored by 12 points, the widest margin since Peyton Manning retired.
Denver promised not to overlook the Giants. The Broncos walked into the locker room 30 minutes before the game, pumping each other up, knowing they were 15-3 at home following a bye week. Then they stepped onto the field and fell from grace with a thud.
Denver delivered its worst first quarter of the season. Forgettable is being kind. When the Broncos finally moved the ball it was only to miss a field goal, which has become a thing now. McManus, who signed a three-year, $11.25 million extension prior to the season, pushed a 35-yard field goal wide right.
Concern fit macro and micro issues, the crowd as quiet and bitter as it had been all season. It made you wonder if the 1,547 no-shows fell into some secret intelligence. With eight minutes left, the place was half empty. McManus' later had a 53-yarder tipped, giving him five fails at home in eight attempts this season, two more than last season when he went 15-for-18.
It didn't take squinting to see the resemblance of Sunday's offense to last year's feeble attack. As Benjamin Button might say, we are getting too young for this. The defense showed rare vulnerability. After allowing 50.8 yards per game on the ground, Denver allowed Orleans Darkwa to bolt for 47 in the second quarter, creating a platform for Evan Engram's touchdown. Engram riddled the Broncos even though Denver centered its game plan on stopping him.
"That's on me," coach Vance Joseph said.
The Giants finished with 148 yards rushing, more than the Broncos had allowed in the previous three games combined. Denver had 46 on the ground. Siemian's two picks compromised the an already sputtering offense.
"When you have three turnovers, it's hard to say you played well," Joseph said. "Turnovers are always tied to the quarterback and that's the key to success. I would say with three turnovers, it probably was not a good performance."
Trailing 10-0, the Broncos finally awoke from their embarrassing slumber. Siemian, who misfired repeatedly and threw a costly interception to Landon Collins, connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 40-yard strike in double coverage. Thomas was his favorite target, but the pair failed to connect in the suddenly problematic red zone. The Broncos settled for a McManus 28-yard field goal -- a win for the defense -- to shave the Giants' lead to seven points late in the half. Hope proved temporary. Thomas fumbled later, and the Broncos' C.J. Anderson was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the goal line, ultimately leaving the Broncos running in a lost race against the clock.
Humility returns this week. It remains to be seen if the offense will join suit.
"We have to correct the bad and find a way to keep moving forward," linebacker Todd Davis said. "We have to step up."
X-rays were negative on the right ankles of Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie. Both will undergo MRIs on Monday. ... Right tackle Menelik Watson, who has been unable to find consistency, left with a calf injury. Billy Turner represented the surprise replacement, moving ahead of Donald Stephenson in the pecking order. ... The Broncos captains: Trevor Siemian, Brandon McManus, Demaryius Thomas, Von Miller, Ron Leary and Aqib Talib. ... Isaiah McKenzie was carted off with an ankle injury. ... Thomas limped into the lockerroom afterward, but said he was OK. He caught a season-high 10 passes for 133 yards. ... Landon Collins felt badly about his hit on Sanders' ankle, which spawned talk of a dirty play. Said Thomas, "You can say that, but it's tough because you can say he was going for the interception. He came up to me after the game and said, 'could you apologize to Emmanuel Sanders for me? So I don't think it was cheap if a player comes up to you and says that. I think he was trying to get a pick."