The Broncos’ playoff hopes hinged on the strength and accuracy of Brandon McManus’ leg. This was no exaggeration. Not as the Broncos’ Week 12 game against divisional rival Kansas City stretched into the 75th minute with the score tied at 27.
In hindsight, the late hours of Nov. 27, 2016, were when the Broncos’ Super Bowl follow-up seemed to come unhinged. Denver, facing a critical fourth-and-10 at the Chiefs’ 44-yard line, was left with three unappealing options and one major decision.
“A lot of teams kind of describe that as ‘No Man’s Land,’ ” Mitch Tanney, the Broncos’ director of analytics, explained at the 2017 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March. “It’s a bad area of the field, primarily because there are a lot of things in play. Punt, the decision was certainly in play. If your kicker has a strong enough leg, a field goal is certainly in play. Even going for it on fourth down is certainly in play.
“There are times when you’re forced to make a decision. You have to do something, and you know that all three options, numerically, are not great options.”
The thinking, as former coach Gary Kubiak reasoned, came down to this: You play to win. Not to punt. Not to maybe tie. Not to maybe get a second shot. So they tried for a 62-yard field goal, one that McManus and his coaches had seen him nail time and again back at Dove Valley.
“It was one of the most challenging decisions we’ve encountered from a game-management standpoint, because there really weren’t any good options,” Tanney said. “Obviously, the missed field goal, the resulting field position, K.C. ended up…
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