DENVER — In the span of 16 seconds Sunday night the Denver Broncos almost, as in within a hair’s width, squandered a much-needed win in a historical, destined-for-a-blooper-reel sort of way, as they could only sigh with relief when they escaped with a 17-10 victory over Washington.
However, those 16 seconds of offensive futility may have summed up a growing list of woes on that side of the ball, with an ill-timed incompletion sandwiched between two different running backs putting the ball on the ground in a three-play span. The second of those bobbles, a lost fumble by Melvin Gordon III, almost became the nightmare of nightmares for a team that still can’t say it has regained its balance if it can’t find more points in the weeks ahead.
“Whatever the worst word you can use to describe it, you can use to describe it,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio of the final offensive sequence. ” … It was awful, it was a terrible, terrible series of downs for us.”
In the end, the Broncos did their no-harm, no-foul best to cherish a rather choppy win that ended their four-game losing streak so they could claw back to 4-4 on the year. But step away, take a breath and it’s clear they still have a significant problem on their hands.
They have scored more than 20 points in only one of their last five games — a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 17 — and at 19.6 points per game are averaging fewer than 21 points per game for the sixth consecutive season. They have one player — Gordon — who has more than three touchdowns this season. By contrast, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have five players with at least three scores.
Asked Sunday if that was a hard way to live in today’s NFL, Fangio said: “Yeah it is. We’re going to Dallas next and I thought I saw somewhere, laying in bed, I think it was last night, that Dallas had scored at least 35 in their last four games … we better get some points.”
It isn’t a new problem for the Broncos. It’s just Pat Shurmur is the latest offensive coordinator, Teddy Bridgewater is the latest quarterback and Fangio the latest head coach to participate in this dilemma.
“Wished we could have taken advantage of certain situations a little more,” Bridgewater said. ” … If we could just avoid negative plays.”
Last season’s Broncos, with Drew Lock at quarterback, couldn’t survive their own turnovers, as Lock tied for the league lead in interceptions and the Broncos led the league in giveaways overall. This year the Broncos are far closer to the middle of the pack with nine turnovers, including Gordon’s fumble Sunday.
But this edition of the Broncos has struggled mightily on third down and has converted far too few trips in the red zone into touchdowns. The Broncos entered Sunday’s game 27th in the league in third down conversions and were tied for 28th in red zone efficiency.
Sunday, against one of the league’s worst pass defenses, the Broncos had six possessions go for 50 or fewer yards, including three in the second half that went for fewer than 20.
“We just have to make our plays, we can’t go three-and-out … we just can’t do it,” Gordon said.” … There’s no magic formula.”
The Broncos could use a little hocus pocus given that three of their next four opponents are the Cowboys, who could have quarterback Dak Prescott back in the lineup, the Los Angeles Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert and the Kansas City Chiefs with former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
The Broncos had hoped the return of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who had not played since the season opener due to an ankle injury, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who had missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, would add some pop. Jeudy had four catches for 39 yards and Okwuegbunam had three receptions, but the Broncos didn’t get too many swings with just 51 plays.
Sunday was the fourth game in the last five they’ve run fewer than 60 plays on offense, the second in a row they’ve run fewer than 55.
“We’ve got to keep improving … we’ve got to be able to score more points that’s obvious,” Fangio said. “We’ve got to be able to sustain drives more often, and that’s obvious.”
San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.
The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.
“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”
According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.
Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.
On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.
Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.
“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”
Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.
How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.
And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.
“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.
The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.
“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.
NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.
Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.
The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.
“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”
Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.
“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”
LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.
“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”
Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson
The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.
“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.
Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.
If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.
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