But managing to avoid abject humiliation on national television is a far cry from victory, as the post-game reaction of Broncos fans on Twitter made abundantly clear. A sizable percentage called for most, if not all, of the squad's brain trust to be fired, including team executive John Elway, underperforming offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and head coach Vic Fangio, whose decision to punt the ball near midfield during the waning minutes of the game left even many of the squad's truest believers smacking their head in dismay.
Also coming in for more than his fair share of social media abuse was Denver signal caller Drew Lock, who'd received much of the blame for the previous week's coronavirus-related debacle; while he wasn't the only player to break the league's COVID-19 rules, he was the team's on-field leader and should have been more careful. In the first series, he fell into his usual good play/bad play pattern, hitting tight end Noah Fant for a big gain and then promptly offering up an interception on a pass even high schoolers should know better than to try. But because the Broncos' defense mostly held Mahomes and his powerful offense in check, Denver still went into halftime with a 10-9 lead.
This advantage evaporated in the third quarter, but a Lock-to-Tim Patrick TD (the second of the contest) put the Broncos in front again, 16-12. Predictably, the Chiefs came back with a quick seven points, but the Broncos had plenty of time for an answer — and managed to reach their own 49 with just over six minutes to play. Facing a fourth and three, Fangio, who clearly has more faith in the D than the O, opted to give Mahomes back the ball, however, and he promptly led Kansas City on a field goal drive that ate up most of the clock. The Broncos had one last possession, but a panic-mode Lock soon did what he does (threw another pick), sealing Denver's doom.
Fangio's conservative play call might have made sense if the Broncos were leading the division and in strong playoff position. But the outfit has absolutely zero chance of reaching the post-season at this point, and had nothing to lose other than its self-respect — if any still remained. And so the conclusion was dispiritingly predictable.
The following twenty tweets offer a very good sense of the reaction that followed.
Fire Elway— Jos Lamar (@jos_lamar) December 7, 2020
Fire them all even elway https://t.co/fYxtL9RGVz— Joe Meyer (@joeyjo35t) December 7, 2020
He’s no different now than he was in college......#fire Elway— Locojavaman (@Locojavaman1) December 7, 2020
Fire Elway and take the team away from the bowlen kids— Olaf ????????????????(@Olafdared) December 7, 2020
Fire shurmur, give this.. what ever he is one more chance to not completely dick us by hiring bad OC's after that, everyones out. Locks got promise and moves, he's being choked by the idiots calling his plays.— Deets99 (@DT99G) December 7, 2020
Fire Pat Shurmur— ???? (@999Melo_) December 7, 2020
Fire Pat Shurmur #Broncos— Erin (@ErinAlbe) December 7, 2020
@johnelway spit your dip out and go fire shurmur— Andrew Mitchell (@AMitchell_17) December 7, 2020
WOW, BRONCOS!!!! WE'RE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS! SUPERBOWL BOUND, BRONCOS!!!! Wait...what? We're still at the bottom of the league for now 5 years running? Time to fire Elway, Ellis, Fangio and Shurmur.— TheFactualDemocrat (@DemocratFactual) December 7, 2020
I am a suburban mom who was making dinner while watching the @Broncos game. Even I knew to go for it on the 4th. Can we get an owner already @Broncos ? Fire @johnelway and Fangio is really a defensive coordinator.Not a head coach with those conservative calls.— Jessica Maxwell (@JessicaMaxwell) December 7, 2020
Broncos running it on 2nd and long. Fire everyone.— DP (@dprez808) December 7, 2020
. @Broncos you have entrusted your franchise to a bunch of chickenshit ninny little pissants and you should fire all of them— Tyler the Mask-Wearing Christmas Doughnut #BLM (@KingDonutI) December 7, 2020