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Freud: Have the Broncos hit rock bottom? We hope so (column)

Is this rock bottom?

This has to be rock bottom, right?

The Broncos lost, 20-14, last week to the San Francisco 49ers?

Let us stipulate that, despite the sports editor’s San Francisco leanings, that this in no way is a column of triumph. Since quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down in a heap, I’ve been rooting for the Niners to tank the rest of the season for draft picks.

The loss likely snuffed out what little hopes the Broncos had for the last wild-card spot.

Here’s what went wrong last week:

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I’m not a huge fan of the “fire the coach” school of thinking, but this put me on the “fire Vance” train.

After seemingly righting things with wins over the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals, the Broncos looked utterly uninterested in playing football during the first half. Maybe the Broncos thought they were going to win the game simply by showing up. In fairness, that usually works against the 49ers.

There was no there, there. San Francisco led 20-0, and it could have been more, had it not been for the Niners’ ineptitude displayed throughout a 3-10 season.

This was a trap game, and the Broncos played like it. That’s on the coach.

Then, there’s the game plan. The Niners didn’t have much offensively, already resorting to third-string Brett Favre-wannabe quarterback Nick Mullens. The starting running back was Jeffery Wilson, third stringer as well. San Francisco doesn’t have wide receivers, either.

Perhaps, it might have been a good idea to cover tight-end George Kittle. He’s all they have. You don’t need to be a super-duper scout watching tons of game film to come to this conclusion.

Yet Kittle caught seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown.

What are you thinking, Vance?

The defense

The Broncos have a good unit, but it’s no longer elite. This is not a crisis. Von Miller is still regal. Bradley Chubb seems to be on target to be a great pick by the franchise. His 12 sacks have already broken Miller’s franchise record for sacks by a rookie.

But teams can run on the Broncos. The Niners’ Wilson nearly went for 100 yards — 95 in all. That may not seem like much, but the Jets and Chiefs — one team is good and the other is not; you decide — also lit up the Broncos on the ground. That’s an issue.

The secondary also leaves something to be desired. The days of the No Fly Zone are done as evidenced by Kittle catching and running all over the place.

John Elway

Perhaps most startling was the way San Francisco’s defense mauled the Broncos’ offensive line. The Niners didn’t blitz. They just sent four, even in obvious pass situations, and were all over the Denver backfield.

When is General Manager John Elway going to fix this? This has been a disaster area for three years now.

You can demand to fire the coach, and said demand is likely coming at the end of the season. But a lot of this goes higher up.

Elway hasn’t fixed the offensive line. The quarterback situation is still a mess. Case Keenum just isn’t “The Guy,” and there’s another year left on his contract. And coach Joseph was Elway’s pick to run this crew.

Give Elway credit for a good 2018 NFL Draft, but he also has a lot of questions to answer with regard to his decisions.

And after last week’s debacle, it seems that he and the franchise will have most of January available to ponder solutions.

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