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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Broncos continue uncharacteristic struggles at home

November 26, 2002

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— Denver has been the league's best home team under coach Mike Shanahan, winning at a clip of 78 percent since 1995. Even when the Broncos were struggling, they still won in Denver.

Somehow, that hasn't been the case this season.

Despite being one of the best teams in the AFC, Denver's home hasn't been much of an advantage. A 23-20 loss in overtime to Indianapolis on Sunday night was the Broncos' third straight at home, their longest streak since 1994.

"I don't know. If you can figure it out, let me know, will you?" Shanahan said Monday. "We have lost some close football games. It's disappointing, but life goes on. We will see how we react when the pressure is on. We'll see how we respond."

The Broncos are 4-1 on the road but have won just three of six at home. In Shanahan's first seven seasons, the Broncos had a losing record at home just once, when they went 3-5 in 1999. Denver has won at least six games six times in that span and went 8-0 at home for three straight years (1996-98).

"To me, that is disgusting," Broncos receiver Rod Smith said. "To lose three in a row at home - that's one place you don't lose a game. You should go 8-0 at home. I've never seen anything like it. It hurts."

Making matters worse is that each of the home losses have come in dramatic fashion.

In a 24-22 loss to Miami on Oct. 13, Olindo Mare hit a 53-yard field goal with six seconds left shortly after Jason Elam hit a 55-yarder.

The Broncos followed that by allowing Oakland's Rich Gannon complete an NFL single-game record 21 straight passes in a 34-10 loss to the Raiders on Nov. 11.

The loss to Indianapolis was perhaps the worst of the bunch.

The Broncos led 20-17 with 1:40 left, but allowed the Colts to move for a tying 54-yard field goal. Mike Vanderjagt hit that kick in heavy snowfall with 3 seconds left, then made a 51-yarder in overtime to give the Colts a 23-20 victory.

Denver is 7-0 during the day, but has lost its four prime-time games by a combined score of 115-75.

All three of the home losses came at night and the Broncos had an embarrassing 34-23 loss to Baltimore on Sept. 30. That game featured a missed field goal by Jason Elam that was returned 107 yards for a touchdown, the longest play in NFL history.

"It's not really a curse or anything like that," Broncos linebacker Ian Gold said. "It's not a big deal. We just haven't gotten it done in those games."

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