ENGLEWOOD — The Black Hole roared Monday night when the game became final as thousands in silver and black sang along with Bay Area rap blaring from loudspeakers.
Raiders Nation danced on stadium side walls. A handful of fans ran onto the field, only to be tackled by security into the muddy mess.
Inside the visiting locker room, though, a quiet hung over Broncos players searching for difficult answers to familiar questions after a 27-14 loss.
Can Denver finally start fast?
The Broncos have trailed at halftime in eight games this season and were held scoreless after two quarters against the 49ers and Raiders (twice).
What’s wrong with quarterback Case Keenum? He has tossed a career-high 14 interceptions this season.
Why such little team discipline? Denver got flagged 11 times against Oakland for 91 penalty yards.
The Broncos (6-9) enter their final week of the season against the Chargers with a common refrain.
“We didn’t play winning football, and they did,” coach Vance Joseph said.
“Anytime you go into halftime down three scores in the NFL, it’s pretty hard to come back from that,” wide receiver Courtland Sutton said, “so we just have to find a way not to put ourselves in that situation.”
“It was a tough one,” linebacker Von Miller said. “It’s the story of the season.”
Sure, there were Denver highlight plays Monday night, such as when defensive end Adam Gotsis sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in the first quarter. It improved the Broncos’ team total to 43 sacks. But personal accolades don’t resonate against the glare of team failure.
“I think a lot of guys need to take a reality check and see where you’re at,” Gotsis said. “Look at what you can do to help the team. I know especially on our D-line, we haven’t stopped, and that’s one thing we take pride in. Whether it’s me or Shelby (Harris) getting a sack, whoever it is, that just shows the work ethic in our room.”
Other Broncos defended the team’s grit in the face of defeat.
“I don’t think anyone laid down. We battled,” right offensive tackle Jared Veldheer said. “It’s your character as a person. Finishing a job. You’re contracted to play 16 games, plus the postseason. You’ve got to go out there and do your best on every single play. There are no excuses. It doesn’t matter you are in the season, if it’s the first game or the last game.”
The harsh reality of consecutive losing seasons (the first in Denver since 1971 and 1972) is inevitable player turnover. Changes aren’t reserved to just the locker room, either. Joseph and his coaching staff are in jeopardy of starting the new year searching for new employment.
The writing is on the wall. Joseph is now 11-20 in two seasons.
“We all want to play better,” Keenum said. “Nobody likes not winning. We all hate it. We all want to play hard. We all want to win for Coach Joseph. We all love him.
“He’s an incredible human and a great football coach. I want to play hard for him. I want to play hard for everybody in that locker room.
“That’s a big part of our team and our identity. We’ve stayed together, and we all love and like and respect each other, and we want to fight for each other. It’s a production league, and when you’re not winning, it’s tough.”