When the chips were down, the Denver Broncos defense came through in Week 8's 17-10 victory over the Washington Football Team. Down seven points late in the fourth quarter, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke drove his team deep into Denver territory.
Then Malik Reed struck — sacking Heinicke and forcing a fumble, which Washington fortunately recovered. On a 4th-&-19 from the Broncos' 20-yard line, Heinicke was picked off in the end zone by safety Justin Simmons and it seemed that the game was in the bag for the home team.
Not so fast.
The three offensive plays that ensued — which began with just 37 ticks left on the clock — were, frankly, emblematic of coordinator Pat Shurmur's entire tenure with the Broncos. It started with a hand-off to rookie running back Javonte Williams that gained one yard. Next, Shurmur hoped to out-think Washington by calling a play-action bootleg pass that ultimately fell incomplete, stopping the clock.
Washington now had two timeouts left and had Denver in a 3rd-&-9 situation with 27 seconds left. Shurmur opted to batten down the hatches, calling a wide-zone hand-off to the right which saw the veteran Melvin Gordon fumble. Washington recovered at the Broncos' 24-yard line with 21 seconds left and two timeouts.
All the King's men could do naught but eek a measly 16 ticks off the clock and force the trailing opponent to use just one of its timeouts. Fortunately, the Broncos defense held again and emerged with a win.
After the game, head coach Vic Fangio was blunt in describing just how bad his team's final offensive series really was. It'd be hard to interpret Fangio's remarks as anything less than a shot across the bow of both Shurmur and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
"It was awful," Fangio said. "It was a terrible, terrible series of downs for us."
Despite Fangio's criticism of his offensive assistants and starting quarterback, he still felt compelled to somehow explain the thought process that engineered that series of suck.
"The offensive coaches all thought the boot had a chance to work—on the second one [down]—to get the first down because they had their three timeouts," Fangio explained. "If we didn't get a first [down], we were going to have to punt. And obviously, it didn't [work]. You'd like, if it were Teddy, if it's not clean, to run with it and keep the clock going. And obviously the fumble on the third down."
Broncos fans are finding this badly-needed victory one of the most unsatisfying in recent memory. However, the home team won — even if it was ugly.
By snapping Denver's four-game losing streak, Fangio avoided the guillotine — for now. With so many of the very problems that plagued this team during the month-long slump persisting on Sunday, even in victory, the likelihood of Fangio and his staff suddenly stumbling upon the right solutions any time in the near future are exceedingly slim.
Next up, a trip to Dallas.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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