INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Denver Broncos are frustrated.
They've lost six times in coach Vic Fangio's first eight games — three times in the final 30 seconds. And the inability to protect a 10-point second-half lead left Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco venting on Sunday.
"We're now a 2-6 football team and we're like afraid to go for it in a two-minute drill, you know?" he said following a 15-13 loss at Indianapolis. "Like who cares if you give it back to the guys with a 1:40 left? They obviously got the field goal anyway. Once again, we're a 2-6 football team and it just feels like we're kind of afraid to lose a game."
Flacco didn't call anybody out by name.
But he was clearly unsatisfied with cautious play calls he thought prevented the Broncos from extending the lead or closing out the game.
When the Broncos got the ball back at the Colts 48-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, they called two short passes and one run before punting.
They took over again with 3:37 left at their 38 and called five runs and one short pass and again punted.
Denver gained 17 yards on those six plays, picking up just one first down.
By the time the Broncos got the ball back a third time, Adam Vinatieri had kicked the go-ahead 51-yard field goal, leaving them 22 seconds left with no timeouts and virtually no chance of reaching field-goal range from their 25.
"You're one, two, three plays away — that makes you want it even worse," center Connor McGovern said. "That's not going to discourage a single person in this locker room. Everybody wants it that much more. We know we are so close."
But the Broncos' troubles go well beyond play-calling.
Denver settled for short field goals on back-to-back possessions in the first half that consumed 30 plays and nearly 13½ minutes.
And when the defense could have closed it out on the Colts' final drive, Indy quarterback Jacoby Brissett escaped a sack on the first play and found with T.Y. Hilton for a 35-yard completion.
Two plays later, Brissett hooked up with Nyheim Hines for 5 yards and that became a 20-yard play when Alexander Johnson was called for a horse-collar tackle. Denver's defense even endured the ignominy of a rare reversal on a no-call pass interference on the field.
It was that kind of day against AFC South-leading Indianapolis (5-2), winners of three straight.
"We had a chance to get a first down and close the game out and we didn't do it," Fangio said after the Broncos lost for the second week in a row. "We had a chance to sack the quarterback — albeit he's very good at avoiding — and we didn't do it. We get a late hit, I suppose out of bounds and they throw it that time of game, which is questionable. We've got to do the things you've got to do to win these games and we haven't done them."
The failures are taking a toll.
While three-time All-Pro Von Miller acknowledged the close calls have been hard to accept, he insisted the Broncos must avoid becoming discouraged.
Flacco, acquired in an offseason trade from Baltimore, chose a different tack by expressing his desire to take more chances on offense so it can help out their stingy defense — and give Denver a better chance.
"We're playing situational football and as players we're just trying to execute the best we can to get those situations over with and help our team win," he said. "I just feel like sometimes those situations are tough and we could make it easier on ourselves by not being afraid to be aggressive."