DENVER – Even if you have no takeaways, you can overcome two giveaways. But three? That is nearly impossible, as the Broncos haven’t won a game with a minus-three turnover margin in over nine years.
Thus, the significance of Quan Cosby’s muffed punt return three seconds from halftime was profound beyond its immediate scoreboard impact, which turned a 24-16 deficit into an 11-point, two-score gap that the Broncos never narrowed in the second half of the 41-23 loss to the Patriots.
Worse, it was completely preventable, and the veteran returner knew it. All he had to do was call for the fair catch — or let Zoltan Mesko’s punt go entirely. Instead, he saw an open lane, tried to make a play — and succeeded only at providing a frustrating coda to a calamitous second quarter.
“That’s the issue. It was the indecisiveness,” said Cosby, who gamely answered questions even though he muffed two returns Sunday. “My mind told my hand to wave. It didn’t go up.
“Again, it was a huge and very, very uncharacteristic and dumb mistake. Our team fought back to try to make up for it, that’s what they told me. That was very costly.
“It will never happen again.”
Cosby didn’t have the chance to atone for his muffed punt return; he was relieved of those duties for Eddie Royal, who returned punts two weeks ago at Minnesota but ceded the duties back to Cosby after being knocked out on a collision with Matt Willis.
But what made Cosby’s fumble most costly was that it came after two other fumbles cost the Broncos 10 points in the second quarter — one by quarterback Tim Tebow, who has lost three fumbles in the last three weeks, and the other from running back Lance Ball.
“I myself should’ve held onto it,” said Ball. “Things happen. We had a bump in the road. We have to shake it off and keep playing.”
The lesson for this team? It’s not good enough to overcome self-inflicted mistakes like fumbles, horrifically-timed penalties and bad snaps that scuttle extra-point attempts — all of which took place Sunday.
“I think whoever had that voodoo doll needs to put it up and never bring it back out,” Cosby said. “It was a rough night.”