March 1, 2021

Broncos own up to shortcomings in loss to Bucs, turn ahead to ‘Thursday Night Football’

The Broncos would go three-and-out on their ensuing two possessions and totaled just 3 yards over the rest of the first quarter. When they did move the ball via a 15-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy and a well-designed 18-yard pass to Noah Fant, Driskel took an untimely sack on second-and-7 that stalled the drive. Brandon McManus drilled a 56-yard field goal — the second-longest make of his career — but the Broncos would fall behind 23-3 before scoring again.

Tampa Bay’s 23 first-half points were the most the Broncos had surrendered to an opponent since they gave up 27 in the first half to Brady and the Patriots in 2017.

Driskel guided the offense on a two-minute drill to cap the first half with a touchdown to Patrick, and for a moment the Broncos had life. 

“We moved the ball to a great two-minute drive,” Patrick said. “We were only down by two touchdowns by the half. Honestly, we had a lot of confidence coming out. The ball just didn’t roll our way, and we still had chances throughout the game until it got to that last drive if you really want to look at it like that. We were down two touchdowns. All we had to do was score one and we’re right back in the game.”

That optimism largely ended, though, when Denver followed an opening stop by giving up a sack in the end zone to former Bronco Shaquil Barrett. The two-point play followed a pair of drops by Noah Fant, and it gave Tampa a 25-10 advantage. Brady and Co. didn’t truly need the added points. Denver picked up just two first downs over their first four drives of the second half. When they trotted out for their final offensive drive of the afternoon, Brett Rypien replaced Driskel at quarterback. 

“I just wanted to get a new guy in there,” Fangio said. “See if he can get it out of his hand a little quicker, direct the protections and see if he could provide a little spark there.”

Even Rypien’s lone series — which he started 8-for-8 — ended poorly. On fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 13-yard line, Rypien looked for Jerry Jeudy in the end zone but was picked off by Mike Edwards.

“I’ve been preparing like I’m ready to go at any time and whenever you have your number called, you have to be ready to go,” Rypien said. “The drive went pretty well, [but] obviously I wanted to finish it better there on fourth-and-1. I tried to look that safety off, and he didn’t really move so I thought I could fit it in there to Jerry and obviously he made a good play on it.”

That late drive, though, couldn’t hide the Broncos’ offensive struggles. The team recorded just 226 total yards, were 5-of-14 on third down and allowed six sacks. Dating back to last week’s game in Pittsburgh, the Broncos have allowed 13 sacks in two games.

“I think it was a little bit of everything,” Fangio said of the protection issues. “They were bringing a lot of people. Sometimes we weren’t on the right people. I think most of the time we were. We were either getting beat or we weren’t getting it out quick enough. It was a combination of everything. Until we solve that problem, teams are going to continue to pressure us down after down until we can make people pay for it.”

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