DENVER — Denver Broncos guard Ron Leary was left to simple physics when it came to explaining how the Broncos went from locker room altering win to the most gut-wrenching of losses in mere seconds Sunday.
“It was a roller-coaster,” Leary said. “And a roller-coaster goes up and down … we got both.”
Even in the three-plus decades Broncos coach Vic Fangio has been in the NFL, no team has ever converted a two-point play, down by one point, to take a fourth-quarter lead and then not won the game until the Broncos did just that Sunday, falling 16-14 to the Chicago Bears. In fact, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, only twice has a team converted a two-point play in the fourth quarter, down one, and not won the game — and that happened in the American Football League (in 1961 and 1965).
Fangio’s week ahead has not been covered in any sort of manual, but he has to figure something out with the 2-0 Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers awaiting them at Lambeau Field next Sunday.
The Broncos went from falling in love with their first-year head coach’s guts — going for the win on a two-point conversion attempt with 31 seconds left — to a penalty on Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb they didn’t agree with to a second they didn’t think was left on the clock to a loss they thought was a win.
“We can’t be pleased with nothing, we’re 0-2,” Chubb aaid. ” … I wouldn’t say stolen, but they made a call they thought was right.”
Fangio’s decision to go for two, after the Broncos had scored on a 12-play drive to close the gap to 13-12, was the type of thing he had promised his team throughout the offseason. After back-to-back seasons of double-digit losses, Fangio said he would go for wins when he had the chance — he called it, “What we’re trying to establish here.”
“That’s my type of coach right there,” linebacker Von Miller said. “… That’s what he talked about, winning right now, not playing for later. I like that, that’s dope.”
Said Flacco: “It was a pretty jacked up sideline, I think we were pretty jacked up.”
But Chubb was flagged for roughing the passer on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage after the Broncos’ two-point play. Chubb pointed to the video screens inside the stadium after the play and was so upset when the Bears kicked for the win seconds later he tossed his helmet.
Four plays after Chubb’s penalty, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hit Allen Robinson for 25-yard gain and the clock, at least from the Broncos’ perspective and most of the people in the seats, appeared to hit 0:00 when Chris Harris Jr. touched Robinson down. But the Bears were awarded a timeout and the officials put one second back on the clock.
On the next play, Eddy Pineiro kicked a 53-yard winning field goal.
“I thought we won, I was like, ‘Wait, how are they kicking a field goal, the time is out’,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said.
“Things happen you can’t explain,” said nose tackle Shelby Harris. “They told us they reviewed it and it wasn’t a zero.”
Flacco was quick to point out the Broncos would have to accept it all and pick themselves up.
But to do that, the players would have to “work, work hard … have a positive attitude. … If I walk into the building with my head hanging, down low, they’re going to feel like they can feel sorry themselves, too.”
Said Wolfe: “All I know is we have to move on from this. We can’t let this define us … and try not to be in the situation where we have to count on the refs to look at the clock and see that it’s actually zero.”