COMMENTARY | Yeah, that just happened.
The Denver Broncos were at the Super Bowl but didn't show up.
The Seattle Seahawks did have opposition Sunday but never got any.
The Broncos played a game in East Rutherford, N.J. but it never was a game.
No one in Broncos Country should be the least bit surprised that the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, but all orange-and-blue-garbed denizens -- whether playing or working for the organization or not -- should be appalled, embarrassed and disgusted with the ease in which the Seahawks won.
There's no use in recounting the Broncos' numerous shortcomings Sunday -- they were painfully obvious to a record 112.1 million viewers worldwide -- and if it's still basically impossible to give away a full season's worth of record accomplishments and good tidings in only 60 minutes, the Broncos at least gave it a damn good try Sunday.
Yeah, that -- 43-8 -- did just happen.
But where do these Broncos go from here?
There will be ample time to go over the free-agent outlook, draft-day strategy and the off-season game plan in the coming weeks and months, but now having had two days to sift through the SBXLVIII carnage, it's "T" time, and here three "T"-themed ideologies the Broncos' organization would be best served to start focusing on immediately . . .
More toughness required
Be it the disastrous, opening-play safety Sunday or the incomprehensible Hail Mary TD pass a year ago in the divisional round, the Broncos have been gut-punched in back-to-back postseasons and have failed to fight back.
Instead, shock set in, heads hung and the Orange and Blue were more or less left at a loss from those points going forward. And that's exactly how both games -- and seasons -- have ended, in defeat to the eventual Super Bowl champ.
We're talking mental toughness here, and the Broncos need more of it from John Fox, Peyton Manning and whoever speaks for the defense and special teams on down.
That goes for toughness of the physical variety as well.
Back to that opening drive Sunday, Manning was trying to change the play while the snap sailed over his head and into the end zone. The Broncos were trying to out-scheme and out-wit the Seahawks from the very start, and Seattle simply responded by grabbing the early gift of a lead and never letting go. That was punctuated on the next series with Kam Chancellor's de-cleating wallop on Demaryius Thomas.
Tone established: Game, set, match.
So how can the Broncos grow from this?
Go with less finesse, more nastiness.
Less head hanging, more head banging.
More toughness required.
It's time to turn the turnover tables
During Fox's three seasons in Denver, the Broncos own the NFL's fourth-best record (34-14, .708) but are 24th in turnover differential at minus-13.
They've had the 12th most giveaways with 81 -- including a league-high 47 lost fumbles -- and have the 12th-fewest takeaways with 68.
During the playoffs, the Broncos are a cumulative minus-7 in the six games under Fox's watch, with 11 giveaways and only four takeaways. Thanks mainly to the four Super Bowl turnovers, the Broncos finished a negative-6 in three postseason games this year with nary a defensive takeaway.
That's no interceptions and no fumble recoveries; it's somewhat amazing the Broncos made as far as they did.
As for the Super Bowl itself, the Broncos failed to learn anything from their 40-10 preseason loss to the Seahawks.
In that exhibition contest way back in August, the Broncos turned the ball over four times with one directly resulting in a Seattle defensive touchdown. On Super Sunday: Four Denver turnovers, one Seattle defensive TD, a lopsided win for the Seahawks.
How's that for Groundhog Day?
The Broncos haven't finished on the plus-side of the regular-season turnover ledger since 2009, and it's time for this franchise to get and act serious about turning the turnover tables - more specifically, placing a premium on protecting the ball on offense and making more game-changing plays on defense.
Of all the statistics and advanced metrics, nothing correlates better to game-in, game-out NFL success than turnover differential, and it's time for that message to truly take hold at Dove Valley.
Team speed needs a boost
Let's cut to the quick here: The Broncos looked slow in comparison to the Seahawks on Sunday.
And whether it was containing scrambling Seattle QB Russell Wilson, breaking free of traffic after catching passes on offense or chasing down Percy Harvin on his second-half-opening kickoff-return TD, the Broncos were simply left in the dust by the Seahawks, who looked to be playing in another gear -- at another speed -- most of the evening.
Even some of the team's fastest players -- return man Trindon Holliday and receiver Demaryius Thomas -- comparatively appeared to be running in mud at times.
Maybe it was simply the Seahawks' young legs, but there's no debating that the Broncos need more speed across the board -- particularly at running back, receiver, defensive back and special teams -- if they're going to keep up.
Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver sports scene since early childhood, and can be found on Twitter @kenpomp.
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