hadn't had three turnovers in a game before Saturday since Week 2. (Jack Dempsey/AP)
Even after the Baltimore Ravens rather miraculously came up with a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday, the host Broncos had a chance to take the game in regulation.
Peyton Manning at quarterback, 31 seconds and two timeouts left, needing 40 yards or so to be able to take a shot at a game-winning field goal.
And so the Broncos ... took a knee?
"You don't win, you get criticized on everything, so that's par for the course," Denver coach John Fox said after the game. "Thirty seconds, it's hard to go the length of the field, some bad stuff can happen -- as you saw at the end of the game."
What Fox seemed to be referencing there (though the time window is a bit off) is Manning's brutal overtime interception, which set the stage for Baltimore to walk off a winner.
Rather than risk a Manning mistake late in regulation, Fox opted to play for overtime -- mimicking his strategy at the end of the first half, when he had Manning hand off to Jacob Hester once before heading to the locker room, taking three timeouts with him.
There, at least, the Broncos knew they would be getting the ball back to start the second half, tied 21-all. There was no such guarantee in overtime.
In fact, the Ravens won the OT coin toss and took the ball. The Broncos did manage to gain possession twice in overtime, with a chance to win the game each time, but Manning's brutal error and the Broncos' eventual loss certainly left the door open to criticize Fox.
Denver also played it pretty close to the vest prior to Flacco's TD heave to Jacoby Jones -- the Broncos ran it three straight times after picking up a first down with less than 2:30 left, including on a 3rd-and-7 with Baltimore out of timeouts.
An incompletion there would have stopped the clock for the Ravens, so you can understand Fox's decision to run the ball. Still, that play call took the game out of Manning's hands.
Even though Manning made the costliest mistake of them all in overtime, it's hard to fathom that the Broncos would rather go the conservative route than let their future Hall of Famer try to win a playoff game for them.
Those safe decisions backfired in the long run, leaving Fox and the Broncos with an offseason's worth of second-guessing.