This is painful to write because I love the Denver Broncos.
I have been a diehard fan since John Elway laced up his cleats for his first Broncos game. I have endured the lowest lows and the highest highs with this team. Watching the 2014 Super Bowl, my emotions ran the gamut from excitement to disappointment. After a couple days have passed the feeling that is left is disgust, the lowest of the low.
The Broncos need to apologize to the fans for the pathetic performance on display last Sunday. Apologize not just to Broncos fans, but also to fans of football. An apology issued not from Elway, but from every player and every coach.
Many fans scraped together their hard-earned money just to support their beloved Broncos in the Super Bowl. Orange was abundant in the crowd at MetLife stadium as thousands of fans screamed for the team they love in the biggest game of the year only to be disappointed by the Broncos’ players not showing up. It was blatantly obvious as the first snap of the game flew past Peyton Manning and into the end zone. The quality of play was terrible from the kicker to the quarterback. The Broncos’ faithful in the stadium and in front of television sets everywhere were hoping for a different team after halftime, but the second half kickoff quickly erased any wishful thinking.
This was the worst Super Bowl I have ever watched and that includes the San Francisco 49ers’ destruction of the Broncos in 1990. Why was this Super Bowl worse than a 55-10 drubbing? This was not a game where one team was overmatched by a superior opponent, filled with future Hall of Fame players and led by a future Hall of Fame coach. The Broncos could have won this game, but instead they folded like a napkin and gave away the game like they weren’t even there. They were not ready to play mentally, and worse, they gave up with more than four minutes left in the fourth quarter by playing like they wanted to run out the clock to avoid losing by more points. That was disgusting.
Clearly the Broncos were more talented than the New England Patriots, having soundly beaten them in the AFC Championship game, but it is a certainty that the Patriots would not have laid an egg in the Super Bowl like the Broncos did. I am not a fan of the Patriots and dislike Bill Belichick, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Belichick may be a lousy loser, but he has his team ready to play and they are competitive every Sunday. Why? He has instilled a mental toughness in his team that many of the Broncos players seem to lack.
This lack of mental toughness has been evident throughout the season and reared its ugly head in the most important game of the year. There has been an inordinate amount of fumbles, dumb penalties, and players not named Peyton Manning sliding feet first instead of taking a hit. Wide receivers throwing up their hands for a pass interference call instead of fighting for the ball that hasn’t yet hit the ground or these same physically-imposing receivers being manhandled by a jam at the line by much smaller defensive backs.
It is agonizing to watch Eric Decker run out of bounds instead of fighting for more yards when stopping the clock is not a necessity. I never saw Rod Smith unnecessarily run out of bounds. He fought for every yard and played every play like it was his last.
The reason why Elway will always be revered and Manning won’t has nothing to do with statistics. It is mental toughness. Elway could will his team to victory even when playing with a supporting cast much inferior to what has been assembled for Manning. He fought with his cannon right arm and his mobile legs and he sacrificed his body to win. It mattered not if he had gotten into a rhythm with his wide receivers or if the defensive line was giving him pressure. If the game could be won by sheer will, Elway was up to the task.
Remember The Drive? How about The Dive? Peyton is intelligent, a hard worker and a great quarterback, but when the chips are down I would rather have a player who keeps fighting at all costs than one who’s slumped over body language clearly says “I quit.”
There is no way to sugar-coat it, highly paid professional athletes with a lack of mental toughness are painful to watch which is what the Denver Broncos were on Super Bowl Sunday.