The final element, crucial in the loss to Jacksonville, was the lack of efficiency in the running game resulting in minimal opportunities on offense. Travis Henry had 11 rushes for 35 yards and a TD. One of the reasons Henry's numbers were so low was the Broncos' inability to establish any sort of rhythm as an offense. Mike Shanahan sometimes has a frustrating tendency to run in passing situations and pass in running situations and the results can be mixed. When such skullduggery fails to pay off, the offense is not able to establish any momentum and they are forced off the field quickly putting more pressure on the defense. (Also, rabid fans like me rant and rave at the television screaming, "Run the damn ball for once!")
Granted the running game was rendered moot by a 13 point deficit late in the game when the Broncos were forced to play two-minute offense in an effort to score quickly. But Shanahan's habit of dubious play-calling has become increasingly common in the past few seasons. It's sometimes unclear what he's thinking when he calls a draw play on third and long in lieu of a deep pass. Sometimes it seems as if he's outsmarting even himself. However, Denver's offense has looked incredible at times and with the right adjustments in play-calling and the minimization of mistakes, they can score on just about anybody.
Looking forward, the Broncos have three extremely tough games in four weeks: at Indianapolis, at home against San Diego, a bye week and then at home again versus Pittsburgh. This is possibly the most important four week-stretch in the Broncos schedule this season and may be the deciding factor in whether or not the Broncos make the playoffs. Whatever the results, how the Broncos fare in the next four weeks will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Utterly Biased Prognostications: In my analysis, the most likely scenario is that the Broncos come out of the next four weeks 1-2, possibly even 2-1, with both 0-3 and 3-0 being a long shot. The Broncos will most likely not be favored in any of the next three games. Indianapolis has absolutely dominated Denver for the past five years, with most of the meetings coming in the early rounds of the playoffs. This year may prove to be an exception, however, as the Broncos are well equipped to deal with both Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. It is all of the other weapons Indy has at its disposal that may make the difference, including a decent running attack with Joseph Addai, not to mention that one guy that plays quarterback. San Diego is always tough and Pittsburgh is on fire this season, so all three will be tough, fun games.