CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The mood in the Broncos locker room blended shock, disappointment and anger. As a 12-point favorite, the Broncos were curb stomped by the Giants, losing their undefeated home record and a clear avenue to a playoff spot.
The timing of the ineffectiveness and injuries could not be worse. With Trevor Siemian (left shoulder) and receiver Emmanuel Sanders (right ankle) hurting, the offensive players desperately need to regain traction with a four-game gauntlet staring them in their puffy eyes.
At Chargers. At Chiefs. At Eagles. Host Patriots.
When the Broncos fell after the bye last season, they nosedived from a 7-3 contender to a 9-7 spectator when the playoffs began. "The Broncos should be ashamed of themselves," former Broncos Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe said on FS1's "Undisputed."
Gulp a few Tums, folks. Here's my Denver7 issues that require work. As you all now, the Broncos' margin for error now feels gone:
1) Take Care, Trevor
When Brock Osweiler jogged onto the field Sunday night, I honestly thought the Broncos had benched Siemian. His pick six sealed the Broncos' loss, a mistake squarely on his shoulders. The Broncos have claimed 31 straight games when they win the turnover battle. Sieman remains a game manager, and that's fine with this defense, but he must take care of the ball. Siemian has four interceptions and two touchdowns over the last three games.
2) Better Trevor
Siemian injured his left shoulder in the loss. He played through a sprained shoulder last season, the pain dogging him for nearly 10 weeks. Part of the reason he remained in the lineup a year ago is that the coaching staff did not trust Paxton Lynch. Will the Broncos play a compromised Siemian with Osweiler as the backup? It's a fair question if Siemian doesn't improve. According to Pro Football Focus, Siemian completed only 9 of 19 passes with two interceptions when he had 2.6 seconds or more time to throw against the Giants. In other words, this cannot be blamed solely on the offensive line like a year ago. Siemian must become more nuanced on when he steps up in the pocket.
3) Siri, can you take me to the end zone? 4) What's up with BMac?
The Broncos lived dangerously for two seasons. They found a way to win ulcer-spawning close games without touchdowns because Brandon McManus was nails. He's now become part of the problem. Only Tampa Bay has missed as many field goals as McManus, who is 8-for-13 with all of his misses at home. This becomes amplified when you realize the Broncos went 21 drives without a touchdown from the first quarter against Oakland to the fourth period vs. the Giants.
5) Red Zone, red faced
The Broncos began the season converting touchdowns at a 78 percent rate in the red zone through the first two games. The figure now sits at 45 percent, sixth worst in the NFL. Playing for field goals won't work against teams lurking on the schedule. And remember Siemian is 3-5 on the road in his career. This is where the return of tight end Jake Butt, possibly as soon as this Sunday, could make a huge difference.
6) Step up, upfront
The Broncos allowed more rushing yards on the ground against the Giants than they had in the previous three games combined. Sunday offered a sequel to last season. Denver could not run. The opponent could. And the opponent had no reason to throw. Of all the issues, this seems the most correctable.
7) Fight back
The Broncos took a punch to the throat Sunday, and never countered. It represented one of the most remarkable aspects of the loss. If this team is determined to redefine itself, the stage is here. Leaders must step forward with fists clenched ready to fight to push this season back on track.