The Denver Broncos’ offense had a chance to ice the game late in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Facing third-and-6 with 1:56 remaining, Denver needed a first down to all but put the game out of reach.
Quarterback Paxton Lynch, who was starting in place of the injured Trevor Siemian, dropped back to throw. The offensive line gave him time. He focused in on a tightly covered Demaryius Thomas toward his left. Lynch fired a pass that Jaguars cornerback Prince Amukamara easily batted away.
The Broncos punted on the next play and would pull out a 20-10 win thanks to Von Miller forcing a Blake Bortles fumble. But the game — and that sequence involving Lynch — served as proof which quarterback gives the Broncos the best chance to win. Right now, it’s not the one Denver traded up to select 26th overall in April’s draft; it’s the guy who the Broncos chose 250th in the 2014 draft.
Lynch made the second start of his NFL career Sunday, and he didn’t look ready in the least bit. He threw the ball 24 times and completed 12 of those passes for 104 yards and no touchdowns. The Broncos won the game largely on the strength of their defense, which has become a Sunday ritual in the same way that going to church or people complaining about Chik-Fil-A being closed is.
Miller had a hand in Denver’s two biggest defensive plays of the day. He caused the game-sealing fumble, and in the third quarter, he created pressure that led to Bradley Roby’s pick-six. Miller bull rushed his man into Bortles, which caused Bortles’ pass to flutter. Roby took advantage.
It was one of two interceptions Bortles threw Sunday. He finished 19 of 42 for 181 yards passing.
The Broncos (8-4) eked out a win over a bad Jaguars (2-10) team to move back into playoff position. Denver is clinging to that final AFC Wild Card spot after the Dolphins badly lost to the Ravens.
The Broncos’ schedule, though, is about to ratchet up in terms of difficulty. They play the Titans on the road next weekend, and then finish with New England at home, Kansas City on the road and Oakland in the regular-season finale at home.
Denver doesn’t have a lot of margin for error. Siemian, who should be back from a foot sprain next weekend barring a setback, gives this team the best chance to win right now. He should be the QB under center when healthy. We knew Lynch would need time to acclimate to the pro game when the Broncos drafted him. Sunday showed he needs more of it.
The Broncos’ best chance at a sixth consecutive playoff appearance is with Siemian as the starter. Which is not something I imagined typing in July.
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