(CTN News) – The Broncos’ locker room was filled with evident frustration and disappointment on Sunday night. A resounding scream reverberated from the showers, while Jonathon Cooper, the outside linebacker, stood in front of his locker, visibly shaking his head and unable to find the right words.
Quarterback Russell Wilson even left the podium before the final question could be asked.
“It’s hard to believe,” Cooper expressed his disbelief after Denver’s 26-23 loss to the New England Patriots on Christmas Eve. “We had everything on the line, and we were playing at home. It’s truly disheartening.”
In a matter of moments, the Broncos’ Christmas miracle transformed into a nightmarish outcome.
Denver managed to score 16 consecutive points, leveling the game at 23 in the late stages of the fourth quarter. With 1:42 left on the clock, they had a chance to secure a victory with a successful drive. However, the Broncos offense failed to capitalize and went three-and-out.
To make matters worse, the defense allowed quarterback Bailey Zappe to lead the Patriots on a 43-yard drive, resulting in Chad Ryland’s 56-yard game-winning field goal with only two seconds remaining.
Fullback Michael Burton expressed his disappointment, emphasizing that such mistakes are unacceptable, especially in crucial games like this one.
He stressed the importance of winning games in December, particularly those that are must-win situations or have playoff implications.
Heading into Christmas Eve, the Broncos (7-8) had a 22% chance of making the playoffs, as estimated by the New York Times playoff simulator.
However, they still had some control over their destiny. If they could defeat the three remaining teams on their schedule, all of whom had backup quarterbacks and two with interim head coaches, their chances of reaching the postseason would significantly improve.
After Ryland’s successful kick, the Broncos’ playoff chances dropped to 4%, their first time below .500 since Week 10. Quarterback Russell Wilson expressed his disappointment but didn’t concern himself with the math.
Empower Field at Mile High has been a symbol of missed opportunities this season, with losses to teams like the Washington Commanders and New York Jets.
The most painful defeat was against the Patriots, who were already eliminated from the playoffs and missing key players. The Broncos missed a scoring opportunity after a fumble by the Patriots, adding to their list of missed chances.