Not too long ago, the the Denver Broncos were perennial Super Bowl contenders. The franchise made the big game twice in three years, winning in 2015 over the Carolina Panthers in Peyton Manning's final NFL game. In 2016, the defending champions opened the season 4-0 with Manning's replacement, second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian, leading the way. Once again, it looked like former legendary QB-turned-GM John Elway was pushing all the right buttons, and had the organization destined for year-in, year-out success.
Since that 4-0 start a year ago, the Broncos have been anything but successful. They went on to lose seven of their final 12 games in 2016, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Denver appeared to bounce back this year, jumping out to a 3-1 start before their bye week. With two weeks rest and the lifeless New York Giants coming into Mile High, 4-1 was a foregone conclusion, and the Broncos were ready to get on a roll. Then, the double-digit underdog Giants killed their season, beating Denver outright 23-10. What's followed has been nothing but losses, poor quarterback play, undisciplined football and questions arising about the job Elway has done.
After six straight losses, each more embarrassing than the last, first-year head coach Vance Joseph decided to make a QB change ahead of Sunday's game vs. the division rival Oakland Raiders. Finally, Broncos fans would get a good look at Paxton Lynch, the franchise's 2016 first-round draft pick out of Memphis that saw action in three games last season. Perhaps he could provide a glimmer of hope for the future in an already lost year. Let's see how that worked out for them ...
Joseph's announcement meant Lynch would get the third start of his career, the first two coming as a rookie in 2016. Lynch went 1-1 as a starter, throwing for 497 yards, two TDs and one interception. Potential? Yes. Next Elway? Remains to be seen / doubtful.
Raiders received the opening kickoff and went three and out, which the Broncos followed with an equally quick three and out on a drive that went just four yards. On the second play of the Raiders second drive, all hell broke loose, when Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib began a brawl for the ages:
As you can see and hear from the video, these two had history (awesome job by CBS to cue up last year's scuffle). It all stemmed from Talib ripping off a chain from Crabtree's neck last season, and the craziest part about Sunday's fight, was that Talib managed to do it again! Here's a few closer looks:
Almost as if Talib knew this moment was coming and was prepared to pull the chain once again. Insane:
The fight, which wasn't exactly Tyson vs. Holyfield, still did what any good fight should do - provide a plethora of opinions about how it went down:
So. Many. Takes. Even some funny ones:
Raise your hand if you weren't the only one with that exact thought too ^^^
After the dust had settled, Crabtree, Talib and Raiders guard Gabe Jackson were ejected from the game, but the fun wasn't over. For some odd reason Talib exited the field by way of the Raiders sideline, and for some other odd reason Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch escorted him in an apparent attempt to be peacemaker:
You better believe there were more takes !!
Just a wild scene in Oakland, and remember, all of this occurred after just eight plays. There was still an entire game left to be played, and it had one tough act to follow. And it did a horrible job of following in the ensuing possessions, four of which ended in punts and the fifth ending in a Raiders fumble. The Broncos recovered and took over inside Oakland's 25, giving Lynch a chance to punch one in and give his team the early lead, which he appeared to do on a beautiful touchdown pass to running back Devontae Booker. Upon video review, officials determined that Booker's knee was down at the one yard line, leading to an unfortunate turn of events for Denver two plays later:
Navarro Bowman's ridiculous interception was the first of the year for the Raiders as a team, and an ugly sign of things to come for Lynch and the Broncos. After nearly going up 7-0, Denver promptly went down 7-0 when Derek Carr led an eight-play, 80-yard charge down the field that ended with this Amari Cooper touchdown:
Denver's next drive went three plays and -4 yards, leading to another punt. As the Raiders began driving again, there was another halt to play, this time after a scary collision between Darian Stewart and Amari Cooper:
Tough break for everyone involved, especially Cooper, who was able to walk off under his own power, but did suffer a concussion. Stewart was hit with a 15-yard penalty, and Oakland quickly capitalized and went up 14-0. The Broncos improved on their ensuing drive, this time going -2 yards in three plays. Down 14-0 at the half and with less than 40 yards of total offense, overreactions didn't seem like overreactions anymore:
Broncos received the second half kickoff and actually picked up a first down! Then promptly went 10 yards backwards and punted on 4th and 20. Once again, the Raiders capitalized, with a seven-play, 66-yard drive to go up 21-0. Things somehow got uglier for Denver, when Paxton Lynch was injured three plays into their next drive. Safe to say this wasn't how he envisioned his first start of the season:
Just flat out mean. Can only hope this poor dude gets another shot at some point.
Someone who did get another shot was Trevor Siemian, and he made the most of it, leading Denver 10 plays and 93 yards on their first drive of the fourth quarter to make it a 21-7 game. A lengthy Raiders drive left little time on the clock for the Broncos, but Siemian struck again with this connection to Bennie Fowler:
21-14! Incredibly, the Broncos still had a chance, and had Oakland facing a third and eight from their own 15-yard line on the wrong side of the two-minute warning. One stop and Denver would get the ball back with plenty of time and a shot to tie it up. The Broncos brought the blitz, and Carr appeared to heave up a dangerous meatball that could have been intercepted, until ....
There's daggers, and then there's that play. Ouch. All that was left was victory formation for the Raiders, and a seventh consecutive loss for the Broncos:
One fan was able to see the glass half full though:
That's the spirit. Next up for Denver are the Miami Dolphins, who they are ... favored over?
And that's without even knowing who is starting under center yet: