Frustration, forgetfulness mark the NFL’s Week 13


Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph talks on the sidelines, during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

ENGLEWOOD | Frustration swept through Week 13 of the NFL schedule.

Rob Gronkowski’s cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. Tom Brady’s sideline spat with his play caller Josh McDaniels. Marcus Peters’ heave of an official’s yellow flag into the stands as the Chiefs fell into a three-way tie in the middling AFC West.

Trumping all that annoyance was Vance Joseph’s amnesia.

The beleaguered coach of the spiraling Denver Broncos has shown he has no remedies for a two-month nosedive that’s resulted in the franchise’s third losing season since 2000 and longest skid since 1967. On Sunday, he revealed a jolting lack of recollection over one of the most egregious sins an NFL team can commit: taking a delay of game penalty on a kickoff.

Asked in the postgame news conference following Denver’s 35-9 loss at Miami about the flag that preceded a failed onside kick, Joseph was both flummoxed and forgetful.

“On an onside kick?” he replied quizzically. “On ours?”

That’s the one.

“Right,” he said. “It was from the 50-yard line.”

Well, from your 45 after your team took a delay-of-game penalty.

“I don’t think we did,” Joseph retorted, then turned a team employee for affirmation. “Did we?”

Yes.

“Did we really? Yeah … I don’t recall that,” Joseph stammered.

Maybe Joseph, like many a Denver fan, has grown numb to the team’s multitude of weekly blunders that has them one loss shy of tying the franchise futility record for consecutive defeats set half a century ago.

Or maybe he just lost track on another Sunday filled with lowlights by a team that’s been outscored by an average of 30-13 during the last two months of futility.

Against a Miami team that had lost five in a row, the Broncos allowed two safeties — one when Matt Paradis’ airmailed a snap over Trevor Siemian’s head and another on rookie returner Isaiah McKenzie’s sixth fumble.

McKenzie was inexplicably back in the lineup after being benched last month and replaced by Jordan Taylor, who had an uneventful two weeks as Denver’s punt returner.

The bumbling Broncos also allowed a blocked punt; threw three interceptions, including a pick-6 that gave Miami touchdowns 4 seconds apart; and the Dolphins’ onside kick (to the gut) with a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter.

“That’s his choice,” Joseph said, insisting he had no problem with the rub-it-in decision by Gase, whom he worked for last season as Miami’s defensive coordinator.

“Just playing 60 minutes. We’re not going to slow down,” Gase explained. “I don’t care what the score is.”

Translation: Gase wanted to stick it to his former team. His stint in Denver ended badly as he got only a cursory interview with John Elway after his hopes of coaching the 49ers fizzled, and Elway turned to Gary Kubiak following John Fox’s ouster in 2015.

“Apparently there’s some bad blood,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “It looks like he’s trying to embarrass us.”

Actually, the Broncos didn’t need any help doing that.

Just 22 months ago the Broncos were celebrating a Super Bowl win. Now, it’s the same story every week: inept on offense no matter who’s at quarterback, their special teams are atrocious, and eventually their defense cracks.

Of the 480 minutes of game clocking during their eight-game losing streak, they’ve led a mere 12 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Just a tough day,” Siemian said after his worst career start. “We’re struggling. It’s frustrating.”

The Broncos haven’t won since their bye week, failing to capitalize on a division that features three 6-6 teams including the Chiefs, who have lost six of seven with their wild 38-31 loss against the Jets on Sunday.

Frustration got the most of the Chiefs with the game on the line. The Jets ran an astonishing 10 plays inside the Chiefs 10 thanks to a series of flags. An exasperated Peters finally picked up one and angrily tossed it into the stands.

Then he retreated to the locker room, figuring he’d been ejected. Upon realizing he’d only drawn yet another flag but hadn’t actually been kicked out, he raced back to the sideline without his socks on or his ankles taped.

Gronkowski didn’t get ejected, either, for pile-driving defenseless White in the back of the head during a dead ball in the fourth quarter of New England’s 23-3 win Sunday. But he got a one-game suspension on Monday that he can appeal.

White sustained a potential concussion in being hit after he intercepted Brady’s pass with 4:50 remaining.

“I definitely want to apologize to No. 27 for that,” Gronkowski said, adding, “I was just really frustrated at that moment.”

That’s basically what Brady said, too, after his frustrations spilled over in the first quarter after a 14-play drive ended with a 50-yard field goal. TV cameras caught Brady and his offensive coordinator in a heated discussion on the sideline.

“It’s just football,” Brady said. “We’ve been around each other a lot. I love Josh.”