Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

Denver Broncos: What went right, what went wrong

— The Sports Xchange —

Less than 23 months after general manager John Elway held aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50, his team collapsed completely in a 5-11 season that saw the Broncos lose 10 of their last 12 games. The carnage did not claim head coach Vance Joseph, but is likely to result in significant changes to the roster, starting with the quarterback position, where neither Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch distinguished themselves enough to hold on to the job, as the starting gig changed hands five times.

Denver’s offense was inconsistent at times and inept at others, at one point suffering its first shutout in nearly 25 years. Only the Browns had more turnovers than the Broncos, who gave away the ball 34 times. As a result, the Broncos were dead last in opposing drive-start position, leading to short fields that opponents often capitalized upon for touchdowns.

Defensively, the Broncos remained among the league leaders in total yardage, but buckled under the weight of carrying the team because of its scattershot offense and mistake-prone special teams. The Broncos allowed 92 points in a two-week stretch against Philadelphia and New England, each conference’s top seed in the playoffs, and those games showed just how far the Broncos have to go in order to return to contention. Joseph will get the chance to fix the problems, but first, he and Elway must solve the quarterback riddle that has bedeviled the Broncos since Peyton Manning’s retirement.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Denver’s run defense showed marked improvement after struggling in 2017, finishing the season first in the league on a per-carry basis and fifth on a per-game basis. Nose tackle Domata Peko showed he had plenty of gas left in the tank in his 12th NFL season, and spearheaded the improvement in the defensive line. C.J. Anderson stayed healthy and posted his first career 1,000-yard rushing season, becoming the Broncos’ first running back to hit that milestone since Knowshon Moreno in 2013.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just about everything else, starting with the quarterback position. The Broncos cycled through Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, but none proved up to the job. None of them threw more touchdown passes than interceptions. The Broncos’ pass defense ranked fourth in yards allowed, but surrendered 29 touchdowns, more than all but four teams. Denver’s special teams were a disaster, struggling with turnovers, poor decisions and execution, leading to coordinator Brock Olivo’s dismissal one day after the season ended.