Bronco brass back Kubiak’s late-game kick
November 28, 2016
ENGLEWOOD — Nobody at Broncos headquarters is second-guessing Gary Kubiak’s ill-fated decision to try a 62-yard field goal even though Brandon McManus’ miss gave the Chiefs a short field to win it as overtime expired.
Not the coach himself.
Not his players.
Not even his boss.
“We’re in this game to WIN,” general manager John Elway tweeted Monday. “Although everyone’s disappointed, we played hard and went down swinging!!!!”
Kubiak said he would have been conceding a tie at best had he opted to pin the Chiefs deep with a punt instead.
While that would have been difficult to take, at least it would have benefited the Broncos (7-4) in the standings, however. With the 30-27 loss, the Broncos fell from the top six in the AFC playoff chase, imperiling their chances of defending their Super Bowl title.
That didn’t come into Kubiak’s equation with Denver facing fourth-and-10 from the Kansas City 44 with 1:08 left in overtime Sunday night.
During a timeout, he decided to go for the gusto.
“It’s a tough kick but it’s something he’s done and it’s me showing confidence in him and confidence in our defense if it doesn’t happen,” Kubiak said. “I believe in our football team.”
When McManus missed, the Chiefs (8-3) got the ball at the Broncos 48 and Cairo Santos banked a 37-yarder off the left upright as time expired.
The Broncos players aren’t joining the chorus of second-guessers.
“I wouldn’t play for a tie, either,” Von Miller said.
If you’re looking for a scapegoat, Aqib Talib offered up Denver’s defense, which couldn’t close it out after Fowler’s 76-yard touchdown catch put the Broncos seemingly safe ahead 24-16 with three minutes left in regulation.
With no timeouts, the Chiefs went 75 yards in 13 plays to force overtime. After hitting Tyreek Hill in front of cornerback Bradley Roby at the Denver 3 on fourth-and-10 with 15 seconds left, Alex Smith found Hill for the touchdown and Demetrius Harris for the tying 2-pointer.
“You give us an eight-point lead, man, I’ll bet my game check ain’t nobody’s going to score on us,” Talib said.
It seemed like a safe bet, though: The Chiefs had averaged just 12 yards on their first dozen drives, half of which were three-and-outs. But the Broncos suddenly fell apart, allowing the tying TD and field goals on both overtime possessions.
“We put that on us,” Talib said. “First time that happened. First time the D hasn’t closed the game in a long time. And lesson learned. We had a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties, a lot of busts in coverage. We can get better from that tape.”
When Talib arrived at work Monday, he met with receiver Jordan Norwood, whom he’d shoved in the back following a second muffed punt that gave Kansas City the ball at midfield in the fourth quarter following a terrific defensive stand.
His first muff in the shadow of his own goal line led to a safety and subsequent touchdown return on the free kick, which put Denver in a 9-3 halftime hole despite allowing just 49 yards of offense.
His second muff came after the Chiefs were forced to punt from their own end zone on fourth-and-21.
As Norwood trudged off the field, an angry Talib shoved him toward the sideline.
Talib, Norwood and Kubiak all said Monday that it happened in the heat of the moment and was no longer an issue.
“I tell our players all the time we battle together, we don’t battle each other,” Kubiak said.
Talib, an emotional player who also bear-hugged Trevor Siemian after his fourth-quarter touchdown throw, said he apologized to Norwood, who said he accepted the gesture and was moving on.
“We were just playing football,” Talib said. “We talked about it. We’re all good, man.”
“I think it’s already squashed,” Norwood said. “Me and Aqib sat down one-on-one and talked a little bit and made sure we’re on the same page. He’s an emotional player, everybody knows that, everybody sees that, and he wants this team to win — just as I do.”
There were a couple of other calls by Kubiak that had the airwaves buzzing Monday.
He started Ty Sambrailo at right tackle but had to reinsert Donald Stephenson after an overwhelmed Sambrailo was whistled for holding and allowed two of Justin Houston’s three sacks.
And he went for the extra point after Fowler’s 76-yard touchdown made it 23-16. A successful 2-point conversion would have made it a two-score game. A 2-point failure and it’s still a seven-point cushion.
“No, we’re going up eight right there,” Kubiak said.
So, he sent out McManus — same as he would do late in overtime for what would have been the longest overtime field goal in NFL history.
“My thing is that we’re going to try to win around here,” Kubiak said.