BRONCOS

There is one thing that all of the Denver Broncos’ six losses have in common

Nov 15, 2022, 10:20 PM | Updated: 10:29 pm
Denver Broncos...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

One doesn’t have to break out the binoculars to see how it all could have been different for the Broncos this season.

And indeed, in each of their six losses, they found themselves in a moment when they had better than a 50-percent shot of winning. Not at the start of the game — but well into it.

Take Sunday’s loss in Tennessee, for example. Per the data compiled by rbsdm.com, the Broncos had a win probability that peaked at 84 percent. That came after a roughing-the-passer call against the Titans gave the Broncos first-and-10 at the Tennessee 22-yard line with 3:13 left in the second quarter.

Even after surrendering a touchdown 16 seconds before halftime, the Broncos’ win probability remained at 60 percent.

Game after game has been in the Broncos’ hands, which makes the magnitude of their shortcomings even greater.

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Week 1, at Seattle

Peak win probability: 70 percent

That came when the Broncos had first-and-goal from the Seattle 9-yard line with 9:31 remaining in the third quarter and a 17-13 deficit. Four plays later, Melvin Gordon fumbled on fourth-and-goal while desperately trying to stretch the football over the goal line.

But later in the game, the Broncos twice had win probabilities of 67 percent. The first game when they reached first-and-goal at the Seattle 4-yard line with 4:39 left in the third quarter. Three plays later, Javonte Williams fumbled near the goal line. They again had a 67-percent win probability when reaching first-and-goal at the Seattle 3 with 6:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, but settled for a field goal that yielded the game’s final margin of 17-16.

***
Week 4, at Las Vegas

Peak win probability: 59 percent

With 3:31 remaining in the second quarter and the game tied 10-10, the Broncos strode to the line of scrimmage with at least a field goal likely. They had first-and-10 from the Las Vegas 41-yard line. Then came Gordon’s fourth fumble in as many games. Sixty-eight yards later, the Raiders had a 16-10 lead. In one play, the Broncos’ win probability fell from 59 percent to 28 percent. And even after tying the game one possession later, the Broncos’ win probability never crossed above 50 percent after that.

***
Week 5, vs. Indianapolis

Peak win probability: 94 percent

It was in the Broncos’ hands with 2:19 left and third-and-4 at the Indianapolis 13-yard line. They didn’t need a touchdown; Indianapolis had no more timeouts. Even a simple 4-yard gain would have clinched matters — and actually would have guaranteed victory more than a touchdown, since three kneeldowns would have followed a 4-yard gain.

But Russell Wilson fired for the end zone, and Stephon Gilmore intercepted the pass. Even then, the Broncos’ win probability remained 80 percent, but that slipped as the Colts marched downfield against a fatigued defense. They tied the game with 5 seconds remaining in regulation, and you know the rest.

***
Week 6, at Los Angeles Chargers

Peak win probability: 77 percent

Twice in overtime, the Broncos had win probabilities at that figure — after each of the Chargers’ three-and-outs. But the second three-and-out preceded Montrell Washington’s muffed punt return. Immediately, the Broncos’ win probability fell from 77 percent to just 19 percent.

***
Week 7, vs. New York Jets

Peak win probability: 54 percent

Training 7-6 with 6:05 left in the second quarter, Brett Rypien hit Eric Tomlinson for a 13-yard pickup that moved the Broncos to the Jets 21-yard line. And while the Broncos did get a field goal out of the drive to take a 9-7 lead, their win probability was below 50 percent — at 49, to be precise — by the end of that series.

It snaked back over 50 percent, reaching 52 percent after the Jets found themselves in third-and-8 at their 27-yard line. A stop and a punt would have left the Broncos in position for a drive just before halftime.

But Zach Wilson took off for 18 yards to keep the drive alive. New York’s win probability never dropped below 50 percent after that, as they soared to a a 45-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal as the second quarter ended. That kick put the Jets in front to stay.

***
Week 10, at Tennessee

Peak win probability: 84 percent

Although the Broncos’ win probability peaked in the second quarter, their WPA remained above 50 percent until the 63-yard flea-flicker touchdown pass with 5:14 left in the third quarter. Denver’s win probability never surpassed 35 percent after that.

And thus, the Broncos concluded yet another game that the numbers said was clearly within their grasp, only to fritter it away.

***

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There is one thing that all of the Denver Broncos’ six losses have in common