DENVER -- The reservoir of goodwill drained empty on a raw Sunday at Broncos Stadium.
With the Broncos trailing by 10 points, they faced a fourth-and-3 at the 39-yard line with 46 seconds remaining in the half. Quarterback Case Keenum took a shotgun snap and looked for the trio of bunched receivers to spring open. All were plastered — prompting the question of why one didn't run an underneath route — and so was Keenum. Lamarcus Joyner clubbed and sacked Keenum for an 11-yard loss as boos rained down on the Broncos.
Keenum ended up in concussion protocol, and watched from the sideline as the crowd roared when Chad Kelly entered for a kneel down.
Anger and absence reflected the Broncos' plight. There were 9,131 no-shows, the most since 2010, the last season of Josh McDaniels' reign of error. The Broncos fired him 12 games into his second year with the team as he plummeted to an 11-17 record. Joseph sits at 7-15 in his second season, strapped with a four-game losing streak, and one road victory on his resume. Lose to the one-win Cardinals on Thursday — the Broncos are favored — and no one would be surprised if the changes promised at Dove Valley include his employment.
My Denver7 takeaways from the latest loss:
1) Run and hide
The Broncos' rush defense is embarrassing. Denver became the first team in NFL history to allow back-to-back 200-yard rushers. Todd Gurley used the Broncos as a chew toy. When looking at changes this week, it starts here. Is it time to mix up the rotation, possibly activate DeMarcus Walker, change the snap counts or use run blitzes to stop Arizona's David Johnson?
2) Red Zone woes
The Broncos rank 30th in red zone scoring efficiency. The only thing worse than being bad is being bad and boring. The Broncos don't scare anyone inside the 20, which was Case Keenum's strength last season in Minnesota.
3) Case cold
Case Keenum has more picks (eight) than he did last season. He has more picks than touchdowns. I said all summer the only way the Broncos would return to the playoffs is if he posted a 3-to-1 TD-to-pick ratio. He continues to look uncomfortable in the pocket. His inconsistency is more like that of a backup quarterback. The Broncos can't get on a roll without Keenum getting hot.
4) Sack attack
There was a glimmer of sunshine. Linebacker Bradley Chubb produced his breakout game with three sacks. He became the fourth Broncos rookie to record three sacks. This season might be lost, but Chubb's development is critical to the future.
5) Running nowhere
Here's the issue. The Broncos have run 34 times combined the past two games. Why? That's a fair question. But the reality is that Denver trails in the second quarter, leading to an unbalanced offense. The Broncos have scored 23 second quarter points this season. Only the Titans and Bills are worse.
6) Silly mistakes
The Broncos cost themselves seven points with penalties. If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. They lost to the Ravens in similar fashion with stupid mistakes. Emmanuel Sanders taunting foul deprived the team of a touchdown. And holding calls by the embattled Garett Bolles and Max Garcia undermined a field goal drive. The Broncos have no margin for error, so mistakes become magnified.
7) Lost confidence
This team needs to learn how not to lose before it can win. The Broncos put themselves in position to fail with assignment breakdowns, missed tackles and lost opportunities. Any chance of steering the season back on track arrives Thursday. Lose to the Cardinals, and hope will vanish, along with possibly a few jobs.