Last year's contest between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers was a microcosm of our entire season. Here's two statistics that are usually strong indicators of a game's outcome:
Time of Possesion: Pittsburgh 34:33; Denver 25:27
Total Net Yards: Pittsburgh 499; Denver 336
Ok, so who won? You wouldn't guess it based on those two stats, but Denver did, and it wasn't really close. Of course the deciding factor, as was the case for most of last year, was turnovers. Pittsburgh turned the ball over 6 times!. 3 INTs from Big Ben, and 3 lost fumbles by other Steelers. The scary thing is we put the ball on the ground 3 other times during the game, giving us a total of 6 fumbles for the game.
The Steelers came into this game 2-5, having been stunned by the putrid Oakland Raiders the week before. Our season was definitely on the line. Denver came out of the gates fast...real fast. The Steelers went three-and-out on their first possesion, and Denver proceeded to march down the field on a 5-play, 63 yard TD drive. Santonio Holmes then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and 3 plays later it was 14-0 Denver.
We fought back valiantly for the rest of the first half, making the score 14-10 heading into intermission. It could have been better though. Much better. A Cedrick Wilson fumble inside Denver territory negated an otherwise producted drive. Then after scoring a TD, we moved the ball all the way back down to the Denver 14 when Big Ben was intercepted. That's two turnovers inside Denver territory, one of them inside the Red Zone. Story of our season.
The wind was taken out of our sails though at the start of the 2nd half. Jevon Walker, who absolutely owned this game, scored on a 72-yard WR reverse. How does that happen?!?
On our next drive, Big Ben was again intercepted inside Denver territory, and the game suddenly looked grim again. But as the Steelers did late in last season, they again gave us reason to hope in this game, scoring on their ensuing possesion to make it 21-17. Of course, we couldn't get out of our own way yet again. After forcing a Denver punt, we stalled on offense due to another fumble (recovered by us this time) and had to punt from our own 1. Since we had Chris Gardocki handling punting duties, we obviously gave them exquisite field position inside our own territory. Add another 15 yards due to an Unnecessary Rougness penalty on the punt coverage and Denver had the ball at our 17 yard line. 5 plays later Denver scored to make it 28-17. Game Over.
It was a wild and crazy game that I hope is not replicated in any way this year. 6 turnovers..3 other fumbles. Dumb penalties. Poor pass coverage. And a 72-yard reverse for a TD. All indicators of a football team that was sloppy and unfocused for much of the year.
Ward's 4th quarter fumble on the 1-yard line capped a disastrous day
I don't expect us to play a similarly sloppy game this year, but this game won't be easy for us, especially if we get behind early like we did last year. Fortunately, Denver is a different team this year, as I will delve into further throughout the week. Nevertheless, many of their playmakers are still around, and you have to believe Mike Shanahan will have his players ready to play this coming Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High.