ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The parallels between the December descents of the 2008 and 2009 seasons and the Broncos’ current two-game losing streak have been drawn, and for nervous fans, they are impossible to ignore.
Throw in a more gradual late-season fade in 2006, when the Broncos went from 7-2 and the AFC West lead to 9-7 and elimination via wild-card tiebreaker, and the Broncos are working on a stretch of five consecutive seasons with a losing record over the last five games of the season — with three of the fades costing them the playoffs.
A win Sunday means an exorcism of five-plus years defined by frustration and woe — years in which the Broncos have never gone better than 2-3 in the last five weeks of a season and carry a 10-19 cumulative record in those weeks, compared with a 34-32 record in the others.
Their record in the last three weeks of the season — including the most recent two defeats — is even worse; they are just 4-13 in Weeks 15-17 since 2006; only the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14) have struggled more.
All that dies with a victory against the Chiefs. But a loss means that these rebuilt Broncos will be lumped in with their immediate predecessors, whether the comparison is fair or not.
“Some fans think that if things look similar, then it’s going to be like that,” said punter Britton Colquitt, who was on the practice squad in 2009 when the Broncos collapsed after an 8-4 start.
“They believe in bad karma and all the things like that. Football guys don’t.”
Besides the helmet and uniforms, the collapses of 2008 and 2009 have little in common with each other, let alone with this year’s team that currently has a two-game losing streak.
Different quarterback. Different head coach. Different offensive scheme. Different defensive coordinator. Different kinds of losses: two of the three defeats in 2008 were by at least 20 points and none were closer than seven points, but none of the losses in the ’09 fade were by more than 20 points and two were by a combined four points.
The magnitude of the Broncos’ last two defeats evokes 2008, but again, the quarterback, head coach, offensive scheme and defensive coordinator have changed.
“I don’t think there is any correlation from those years to this year,” said fullback Spencer Larsen, who has been with the team since 2008.
“This is a very different team from top to bottom, and this year’s gone differently than any of us have ever seen. So I think we have to be very careful to compare this season with any other season. ”
Their predilection for comebacks underscores this. They recovered from two-score deficits against Miami, Oakland, San Diego and Chicago; they mounted game-tying or winning drives in the final moments of regulation against Miami, Oakland, the New York Jets, San Diego, Minnesota and Chicago.
Even after the struggles of the last two games, there’s no reason for them to doubt their comeback abilities.
“We’ve just got to settle down, let all the hoo-lah get past us and go back to playing Denver football, basically, like we were doing three, four, five weeks ago,” said running back Willis McGahee, who helped the Ravens to playoff appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“We just need to settle down, don’t get into all this hype around us and just play our game.”
Even if the Broncos don’t completely understand their supporters’ anxiety, they accept its existence. They also know they can end it.
“We owe it to our fans to get a home win at the end and take us where we haven’t been in a while,” Colquitt said.