Armstrong: Broncos perfecting the fade route
By Jim Armstrong
The Denver Post
There's no way around it, no denying it, and no other way to say it: The Broncos have become the NFL's premier flash-and-crash franchise.
They start fast and fade faster. They jump ahead, then fall behind. They rock, then they get rolled.
This time, they started 6-0. You remember 6-0. Josh McDaniels was high-fiving babies in the stands at Invesco Field. Kyle Orton was a Pro Bowl candidate. The playoffs were a foregone conclusion.
The Chargers? They were yesterday's news. And then ... and then ...
And then it happened again.
The Broncos are 6-4 after Sunday's 32-3 beating by the Bolts. During their four-game losing streak, they've scored 20 points in the first half -- 17 coming at Washington. Twice, they've been shut out in the first two quarters.
At least Orton showed he was healthy enough to play. But then, he didn't have any choice. The Broncos were going nowhere with Chris Simms in the huddle, trailing 13-0 with 4 minutes left in the first half.
So what happened after Orton arrived on the scene? He completed a 22-yard pass and a 38-yarder to put the Broncos on the Chargers' 4-yard line. But all it did was set the stage for Knowshon Moreno's fumble at the goal line. It wasn't official at the time, but it is now: The Bolts have taken over the lead in the AFC West.
It may not seem possible, but it's true. And since you're wondering, here goes: The NFL since adopting its 16-game schedule in 1978 has had two teams start 6-0 and not make the playoffs. That would be the Redskins in 1978 and the Vikings in 2003.
And maybe the Broncos in 2009.
If so, it wouldn't be as shocking as you might think. This is the Broncos we're talking about. They're turning the fast fade into an art form.
The Broncos were 4-1 last season, but lost seven of their last 11 to finish 8-8, prompting Pat Bowlen to look for a new coach. In 2007, they won their first two, but dropped nine of their last 14 to finish 7-9. The year before, they won five of their first six, but lost six of their final 10 to finish 9-7.
The list goes on and on. The Broncos jumped out to a 5-1 record in 2003 and 2004, but split their final 10 games to finish 10-6. In 2002, they stood 4-1 after five games, only to lost six of their final 11. And in 2001, they were 3-1, but dropped seven of their last 12 to finish 8-8.
Granted, things can change in a hurry in the NFL, but, at the moment, there's no reason to think things will be any different this season.