Well, that was excruciating.
Take away the perspective of Denver and Seattle. This was supposed to be a matchup of the two best teams in the NFL.
It turned out to be a glorified midweek practice. The Seahawks were the numbers ones. And the Broncos were disguised as the scout team.
Kudos to the Seahawks. They stormed out of the gate with their usual intensity and maintained it the duration of the game.
But it’s not like they played the perfect game.
Everyone could tell the Broncos weren’t right from the first play from scrimmage, when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head.
Two Manning interceptions later and the score showed 22-0 in the blink of an eye. Throw in the handful of times the Broncos defense failed to get off the field on third down and you had every reason in the world to stop watching.
The Broncos lost to the Colts, Patriots and Chargers during the regular season. In each of those games, Denver played well in spurts.
I would have taken any of those efforts against the Seahawks in a heartbeat.
Frankly, the Jaguars could have been a more suitable Super Bowl opponent for Seattle. The Broncos self-destructed as soon as they lost the coin toss.
Where do they go from here?
Here’s more salt to add to the wounds.
John Elway now has the daunting task of deciding which of the 16 free agents he’ll bring back next season.
Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, Zane Beadles, Shaun Phillips, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, Wesley Woodyard, Mike Adams and Robert Ayers (all starters) top the list.
The Broncos announced last week that Moreno, who was a Josh McDaniels draft pick, won’t be brought back. Montee Ball figures to be the starter going into training camp.
Interestingly, Rodgers-Cromartie said that he was contemplating retirement following the Super Bowl. If he decides to keep playing, Elway needs to find a way to resign him.
Of the remaining six, it’d be reasonable to make Decker and Beadles the main priorities. Decker disappeared during the Super Bowl, but figures to trend upward with another year catching passes from Manning.
And after the Broncos offensive line was rated best in the NFL, it would be perplexing if Beadles left.
How Denver approaches the draft will be interesting.
95 percent of the team’s needs are on the defensive side. They could use a safety, cornerback, middle linebacker and pass rusher.
Whoever they bring aboard to help the defense has to show one key attribute: playmaking ability.
Von Miller will be fortunate to be back in time for the regular season. If he stays in a Bronco uniform, Champ Bailey’s role will continue to be reduced. The list of playmakers for the Denver defense ends there.
The Seahawks probably have at least 10 guys on defense that consistently make game-changing plays. It’s a major reason why they were the last team standing this year.
But here’s the good news for Broncos Country.
Peyton Manning is under contract for three more seasons.
And with the AFC being down at the moment, the Broncos could realistically be representing the conference in the Super Bowl again in 2015, 2016 and 2017.