Denver (AP) — Even down to one healthy cornerback, another spitting up blood, three sidelined with injuries and one ejected for throwing a punch, Vance Joseph trusted his defense more than his offense.
And they reached the 50-yard line with 52 seconds left but Case Keenum, who was picked off twice, spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock, then threw two incompletions before getting sacked by blitzing defensive back Jabrill Peppers to seal Denver's first loss to Cleveland since 1990.
Despite not having a stout run defense like they did in years past or the star-studded secondary they did when Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward were still around, the Broncos have only surrendered an average of 21.3 points a game this season.
Keenum has thrown just five touchdown passes in the last five weeks, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has stubbornly stuck to spread formations and hasn't been very creative in his calls.
Needing about 8 yards to get in range for McManus to have a shot at a game-winner, Musgrave called intermediate and deep routes on the Broncos' final two plays and converted guard Connor McGovern's shotgun snap on fourth down nearly hit the ground.
If Tennessee beats Dallas on Sunday, the Broncos' playoff drought will hit three years — the prime seasons of superstar Von Miller, whose MVP performance in Super Bowl brought home the team's third Lombardi Trophy.
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