After the game, a choked-up Moore put the loss squarely on his shoulders and vowed to atone for his big blunder.
“That’s definitely going to motivate me,” Moore said. “I’m going to keep my head high and next time the opportunity comes, I’m just going to make it for my team. I’ll just make the play. I’m just sorry the way the season ended because it ended all on me, which I never would expect. I apologize to all the fans and people who love the Broncos because this wasn’t what they deserved. And I’ll get it right.”
Fox said he stood by his decision to play for overtime after Jacoby’s touchdown staggered the Broncos _ and Elway concurred. Given the ball at his 20 with 31 seconds, two timeouts and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Broncos coach decided to run out the clock and head to overtime, so Manning took a knee.
“I thought it was the right thing at that time,” said Elway, sounding nothing like the go-for-broke quarterback he once was. “I think with where the team was mentally and the situation we were in, I thought that it was a good move.”
Even 48 hours after the game, that single decision remained the most hotly debated of the many Fox, Manning and the Broncos made in their gaffe-filled loss to the Ravens. The second-guessing only got more intense Sunday after Atlanta moved the ball 41 yards in 12 seconds to set up the game-winning field goal in its 30-28 victory over Seattle.
But, Fox said, Denver’s situation was nowhere near what the Falcons faced. The Falcons were losing and had no other choice. They were playing in a dome. The Broncos had just given up a game-tying 70-yard heave and were standing on the sideline in disbelief. The temperature was below 10 degrees. Manning had thrown just two long passes all night.
Fox also stood by his other important strategic decision. A few minutes before kneeling on the ball, Denver was up by seven and trying to grind out the clock. Despite being down to their third-string running back, 188-pound Ronnie Hillman, the Broncos called three straight running plays, including a run off right guard on third-and-7 that went for no gain. That ran the clock down to 1:15 and made Baltimore burn all its timeouts.
But three plays after a punt, Flacco threw that improbable 70-yard touchdown pass over Moore.
In the end, all the analytics didn’t matter. They simply didn’t make the plays they had to keep a terrific season going.
“This is something that the players will remember for a long time,” Elway said. “They’ll never forget what happened on Saturday. They’ll never forget that and I think that we’ll use that as we did in `96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year like we did in `97. Like I said, it’s how we approach it, how we use it, how we learn from it. And it gives us an opportunity to be that much better next year.”