PHILADELPHIA — “Insane,” “horrible,” “mind-boggling,” “unacceptable,” and “horrendous” were words Denver Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph used to describe aspects of the team’s offense after a 29-19 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.
Less than a week later, after a drastically worse performance from his team—a 51-23 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday—Joseph’s players were the ones with the strong words to describe their play.
“We got our ass kicked,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said in the locker room moments after the final whistle.
Despite a 28-point defeat, potentially the most unsettling realization, however, were the events that took place the days leading up to the game. Less than 24 hours after Denver’s loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos made a change at quarterback—benching Trevor Siemian for Brock Osweiler in an effort to jumpstart the offense, and hopefully the team.
If only it were so simple.
The early afternoon affair on the east coast exposed the fact that the Broncos are a far cry away from a simple swap at quarterback.
On the offensive side of the ball, an Osweiler-led offense didn’t look any different than a Siemian-led offense. Osweiler finished the day with an all-too-familiar stat line: 19-for-38 for 208 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, accumulating an uninspiring 53.4 passer rating.
Denver’s running game did Osweiler no favors either in his first start on the year as they ran for a season-low 35 total yards. Their leading rusher on the day? Third-string back Devontae Booker, who amassed 21 yards on a 3.5 yards per carry average.
Stopping there would have been enough to prove the Broncos weren’t a quarterback away from being great, but the offensive and collective team woes went much deeper.
At one point in the second quarter, Denver had as many penalty yards (65) as they had total offensive yards. In the end, they finished with a season-high 14 penalties for 105 yards, approaching nearly half of their total offensive yards (226). Offensive guard Ron Leary, who was called for a holding penalty himself, said “Penalties killed us… You just can’t have it.”
After losing the turnover battle for a fourth-straight week, the Broncos tied the 0-8 Cleveland Browns for the league-worst turnover margin at minus-12. But just as turnover margin is half on the offense and half on the defense, so were the Broncos’ woes on Sunday.
“On defense, we pissed the bed today,” Von Miller said bluntly.
What was supposed to be one of the league’s best defenses, if not the best, was anything but that against the Eagles. Not only did the Broncos give up more than 50 points for the first time since Oct. 24, 2010, they allowed season-high marks in yards (419), rushing yards (197) and touchdowns (seven).
By the way, Eagles’ star quarterback Carson Wentz only played the first three quarters before putting on a visor and watching his team ride to an 8-1 record from the sidelines. If Wentz played the final 15 minutes, the Eagles likely would have put a season-high passing yards on Denver’s vaunted “No Fly Zone,” too.
“In all three phases, not good,” Joseph said shocked after the game. “It starts with me. I didn't see this coming.”
In the reflective locker room after the game, the 3-5 Broncos came to a stark realization: “We are not a great football team right now,” Miller said.
“We're not very good right now, we have to look in the mirror and see what we can do to get better,” Chris Harris Jr. said, echoing a similar statement from Miller following the game. “It was bad. They just beat us.”
The harshest reality on Sunday, however, was the Broncos aren’t just a quarterback switch away from being contenders.