It takes a lot to satisfy fans of the Denver Broncos. And the team's 24-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday didn't quite do it.
True, the contest's results got Denver back to .500, and the squad's 6-6 record and favorable schedule (its next four games are against the 49ers, Browns, Raiders and Chargers) make a playoff appearance more realistic than anyone would have predicted prior to the current winning streak, which has now hit three. Moreover, the tilt proved that this edition of the Broncos can win on the road in the eastern half of the country when kickoff comes in the early window of games, which hadn't been especially clear before yesterday.
But beating the Bengals proved a lot more difficult than the final score suggests, and not only because of an ultra-unfortunate injury to cornerback Chris Harris Jr., the best Broncos defender not named Von Miller. With Cincy's starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, out with a season-ending thumb injury, Jeff Driskel made his first NFL start under center for the Men in Stripes, and he looked predictably out of sync, seldom generating consistent offense. But Case Keenum, Denver's field general, simply didn't take advantage often enough.
Stats can lie, but not this time: Keenum's numbers — 12-for-21 and 151 yards — were positively Tebow-esque. Thanks to his ineptitude, Denver went into halftime clinging to a narrow 7-3 lead. And were it not for another brilliant effort by super-rookie Phillip Lindsay, who scored two touchdowns, including a thrilling 65-yard sprint to the end zone and several well-timed Cincinnati giveaways, the outcome could have been different.
Yes, the 49ers' starting QB is out, too, and the Raiders have had an embarrassing season (though they were competitive against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday). But the Browns aren't the pushovers they've been in years past, and the Chargers are genuinely formidable this time around. If Keenum plays like he did against the Bengals, the Broncos could lose to any of them.
This concern is evident in the following tweets, in which fans on Twitter express their fear that Denver will miss the playoffs but do just well enough for the Broncos not to fire head coach Vance Joseph, as plenty of folks have been encouraging team president John Elway to do for weeks. Consider the conversation here.
So Vance is going to win just enough to not get canned.— cody cowgill (@codycowgill) December 2, 2018
I’m a broncos fan man I mean I don’t know how we’re winning these games but it definitely ain’t cause of Keenum— keever walker (@chiefkeev29) December 3, 2018
Think where the Broncos would be if Keenum was above average..— Bill O'Dell (@bodgm) December 3, 2018
"Overpaid".... enough with this argument. If you want a good-great QB, that's the price you gotta pay. Even Keenum stole millions from the Broncos. It's Flip's playcalling that's terrible.— Joseph Patrick Klabunde the First (@MR_KLABUNDE) December 3, 2018
broncos have a better chance at beating the 49ers then they do the browns..... the browns are 4-7-1 and the 49ers are 2-10 sooooooo— SoCalExploring (@SoCalExploring) December 3, 2018
So Broncos and White Sox? R u a south sided who moved from Denver. Case Keenum is not very good— Coach O (@oly5613) December 3, 2018
If you think case keenum is better than Kirk, you haven’t watched a broncos game this year. Man has been absolute fuckin garbage— skol shit (@mushy_banana28) December 3, 2018
Big win for #broncos but gotta have more from Keenum especially on 3rd down. No more excuses. Running game is holding up, he must raise game— chad smithers (@memphiscds) December 2, 2018
Whopee, 500 hundred ball. They still don't look good, just lucky. Keenum looks like garbage, still. They still have, at least, two teams in front of them before getting close to squeaking a wild card.— Matt Hornbeck (@Matt63Hornbeck) December 2, 2018
Right?! The Broncos- THE BRONCOS- beat the Cards. We were almost rooting for the Broncos to lose today so Vance Joseph would get fired.— Joy (@Simmerpedia) December 3, 2018
THIS - 100% the most and only accurate assessment in town of what the Broncos are actually doing. If I hear someone talk about all the turnovers the Broncos “force” or how Keenum is finding his groove just because he isn’t throwing 2 INTs a game I’m gonna lose it— Matthew H (@Pagoda1423) December 2, 2018
Keenum just isn't nifty. . . No on field QB instincts what so ever. . . He's in Game Manager mode for the past few games. . . The Broncos are fine in most games as long as they don't make stupid turnovers. . . + 8 in the +/- stat in last three games. .— Gil Whiteley (@Gilfest) December 2, 2018
Good thing Lindsey came to play since keenum is playing so badly.— Matt Hornbeck (@Matt63Hornbeck) December 2, 2018
Worried about the browns game and that Chargers game— jimmy cody (@JimmyCody3) December 3, 2018
Just think what our record would be if he didn't bonehead the start of the season, Vance gotta go.— R.W. Schroeder (@rusty_schroeder) December 3, 2018
Broncos won't win out not good enough. Maybe 9-7— ACII (6-6) (@CarwellAugustus) December 3, 2018
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The Broncos are going to end up just good enough to not fire the sexual assaulter and I'm going to be furious.— Andrew Lacy (@andrewlacy52) December 2, 2018