BALTIMORE -- Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said this past week the team’s dismal 5-11 season was "dead and gone." And then the Broncos went out and resurrected that painful slice of history.
Last season, a 2-0 Broncos team made its first road trip and lost to the Buffalo Bills. And Sunday, the 2-0 Broncos made their first road trip only to once again see their offense and quarterback Case Keenum have their worst day of the young season in a 27-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“As an offense we’ve got to get better," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “ … Too many penalties, too many mistakes. It’s hard to win when you do what we did."
Keenum, who signed a two-year, $36 million deal in the offseason, had enjoyed the comforts of his new home in the season's first two games. He led two game-winning drives in those games, including a field goal drive last week as the Broncos earned a one-point win over the Oakland Raiders with six seconds remaining.
Sunday, however, in a steady rain for much of the day, neither Keenum nor the Broncos' offense got their footing. Even as the Broncos flashed some quality work in the running game, and Keenum found a sliver of rhythm in the closing minutes, the Broncos consistently had difficulty handling the Ravens' defensive front in pass protection.
Keenum was hit repeatedly and by halftime was a shaky 7-of-12 passing for 56 yards with two passes knocked down, having been sacked three times and fumbling once. By the end of the third quarter, Keenum was just 12-of-21 passing as the Broncos had more penalty yards (90) than net passing yards (85) at that point. He finished 22-of-34 for 192 yards and an interception.
“It was a combination of things," Keenum said. “ … Whether it’s I missed a guy running wide open -- there’s a few I can remember and could see from the pictures we had some guys open -- to whether they schemed up a good blitz that got our protection, whatever the situation is, one thing here or there, couple tipped balls, it just wasn’t our day."
Toss in some particularly crushing penalties in one third-quarter drive alone in a penalty-filled day (120 yards in all) -- such as Garett Bolles' holding penalty that negated a 38-yard completion to Demaryius Thomas to go with an unnecessary roughness penalty on guard Ron Leary that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range -- and it all looked eerily familiar to the week-to-week struggles in 2017.
Because as Keenum sputtered -- he threw his fifth interception of the season in the fourth quarter with the Broncos on a rare venture into Ravens territory, and leading rusher Phillip Lindsay had been ejected just before halftime for throwing a punch in a scrum to recover a fumble -- so did the offense. After an eight-play touchdown drive that gave the Broncos a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, Denver went 17, 3, 9, minus-3, 0, 11 and 33 yards on their next seven drives.
“When we went on out little stretch of not being able to move the ball very well, you just can’t do that for that long in this league, especially on the road,’’ Keenum said. “It’s definitely frustrating.’’
“We can’t do it, it probably cost us 20 points today,’’ Joseph said of the penalties. “Just self-inflicted penalties. A lot of penalties was just guys losing their composure, we can’t do that.’’
The Broncos and Keenum have talked about the importance of bouncing back from the bad things that happen. They will now get their chance to show it with the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs next on the docket.
“We’ve got to get back in the lab and get right for a very good Kansas City team coming in on Monday,’’ linebacker Von Miller said. “ … We definitely have to clean it up.’’