LAS VEGAS — In a season when the Denver Broncos’ offense has so often looked broken, it has now broken the team’s dreams.
Almost all of the team’s postseason mathematics were used up Sunday as the Broncos gained just 158 yards of total offense in a 17-13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The loss dropped the Broncos to 7-8. Given Denver had just an 8% chance of making the postseason heading into the day, a sixth consecutive playoff miss is all but assured.
“It’s hard to say anything — you get 158 yards in total offense and eight first downs — it’s hard to say anything good about the offense,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio.
The Broncos have surrendered 22, 10, 15 and 17 points in their past four games and have gone just 1-3. They had opened December at 6-5 with percolating postseason aspirations only to see them largely evaporate in so many failed pursuits of touchdowns for embattled offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
The list of offensive woes against the Raiders was long — even without a turnover. The Broncos had just 18 yards rushing (10 of those from quarterback Drew Lock), converted just 1 of 10 third downs, ran just 40 plays and missed a field goal attempt.
The rushing total was the Broncos’ lowest output in a game since 2016, when they had 18 yards in a December loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Broncos running backs — Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams — combined for 8 yards on their 14 carries, with Gordon rushing for minus-4 yards in the game.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Information data, the Broncos ball carriers were hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 13 of their 16 run plays — 81% of the time.
“We obviously didn’t run the ball like we needed to,” Broncos guard Dalton Risner said. “… As on offensive line, we can’t do that … you can have excuses on excuses, but as an offensive line, we have to run the ball better. We have two good backs, so we take that home.”
The Broncos have scored fewer than 20 points in eight games this season, including Sunday’s loss, and are now 1-7 in those contests. On Sunday, their only touchdown drive was 1-yard long, after Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb made a leaping interception — he tipped the ball one-handed back to himself — and returned it to the Raiders’ 1-yard line with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Williams ran it in on the next play for a score.
The second of the Broncos’ two field goals on the day also was gift wrapped by the Denver defense with a fumble recovery at the Raiders’ 41-yard line. The Broncos gained all of 4 yards on the ensuing possession before Brandon McManus made a 55-yard field goal.
“Eight first downs isn’t going to cut it, 18 yards rushing isn’t going to cut it, 1-for-10 on third down isn’t going to cut it,” Fangio said. “But we’ll keep working at it.”
The Broncos are tied with the New England Patriots for the fewest points allowed in the league this season — 260 after Sunday’s games — but the Broncos have little to show for those efforts. The offense’s longest possession in the loss to the Raiders covered 44 yards — it ended with McManus’ first field goal of the game — as the Broncos ran just 17 plays in the entire second half.
“It definitely hurts,” said Lock, who completed 15 0f 22 passes for 153 yards in place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater. “It was in our hands today, and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Perhaps it was fitting that, as Lock started to answer a question at one point following the game, the audio from Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia was suddenly piped into the room. Bisaccia said, in that moment, he could not think of a word to describe the Raiders’ defensive effort on the day.
“That about sums it up,” Lock said as he waited for the problem to be fixed.
Fangio, who has said Bridgewater will again start at quarterback if he clears the concussion protocol at any point over the final two weeks, was asked how he will approach the last two games given the troubles the Broncos have at the moment, especially on offense.
“They’re disappointed like we all are,” Fangio said. “… We’re going to try our ass off to get our eighth win, and then we’re going to try our ass off the next week. I don’t view it as season over or anything like that.”