The Broncos certainly gave Gary Kubiak, who will announce on Monday morning he is stepping down, an all-around win that left him beaming with pride. The Broncos showed a balanced offense, a stifling defense and the kind of edge they had in last season’s playoff run.
And that’s just it. They showed all that after they had been eliminated from the playoffs, after their lot in football life had been decided.
"Man, that’s crazy," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “That’s how you want to play, that’s how we should play, and that’s what we should have been doing the whole season. That’s why this year is just the year we didn’t get it done."
The Broncos players were so happy to give Kubiak the kind of win they believed he deserved. But they were also frustrated that those 60 football minutes Sunday didn’t come sooner, which led to their first playoff miss since 2010.
Yes, the Broncos enjoyed that first drive Sunday, the one where they went 84 yards on eight plays to open the game with a touchdown. But it was just the third time this season they scored a touchdown on their first drive and the first time they had done it since Nov. 13.
“It was good, it was good to get off to a fast start," quarterback Trevor Siemian said. “That was something we were missing the last couple weeks. We got off to a good start."
The Broncos enjoyed their 143 yards rushing, their third best output of the season. They had their longest run play of the season -- a 64-yard run by Justin Forsett -- and rookie running back Devontae Booker had a rushing touchdown as well as a receiving touchdown.
But it was a temple-rubbing reminder the Broncos’ offense stalled much of the year because it couldn’t do what it did Sunday. Denver had 104 yards rushing in the first half Sunday, more yards rushing than it had in 10 of their games.
“We could have done more on offense," said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who finished his season with a wrap on his left hand. “We showed some things we could do, but not enough."
The Raiders were without quarterback Derek Carr, who was having an MVP-worthy season going before he suffered a fractured lower leg. And the Broncos knocked backup quarterback Matt McGloin out of the game, pressing rookie Connor Cook into action.
But the Broncos' defense limited the Raiders to 57 yards rushing, an important number given the Raiders pounded out 216 yards rushing in the rout of the Broncos last month. Sunday, the Broncos played with the lead and stifled the Raiders’ chance to help their young quarterbacks.
Oakland had 20 yards on one carry -- by DeAndre Washington -- and 37 yards on their other 15 carries combined. And when the Raiders couldn’t run, their inexperienced quarterbacks were in harm’s way and their offense was in neutral.
“It’s incredible," linebacker Von Miller said. “Why haven’t we been playing like that all year? It’s crazy, right? We had a complete game, offense, defense and special teams. That’s the type of game we were looking for all season. It’s fitting that we put it all together for his last game."
Fitting, yes, as it was easy to see what Kubiak’s players feel about him. That effort, however, will also be the narrative of the season because at their best, the Broncos repeatedly showed they had enough to beat anyone who will play in the postseason field. They’ve offered so many glimpses of what they could have been.
But too often they didn’t rise to that level. In the end, the Broncos sent Kubiak out with a win, but also reminded themselves of not what might have been but what should have been.
“It does, it does bother us," Harris said. “That’s the worst part. We’re better than we played, Kubes, everybody deserved better. ... I said it before. We have tons of talent, we’re good enough to be in the playoffs, we just weren’t good enough enough of the time."