The November 29 matchup between the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints was less a professional football game than a GIF of a man pounding his head against a wall looped for nearly three hours straight. But as the response on Twitter makes clear, the 31-3 Saints win made less of an impression on Broncos Country than did the overwhelming display of disrespect to Denver from the National Football League, which ruled every quarterback on the roster ineligible to play because of COVID-19 protocols but refused to postpone the contest, as it’s done for numerous other squads over the course of this bizarre pandemic season.

The sequence of events began with a positive COVID-19 test for backup QB Jeff Driskel, followed swiftly by news that starter Drew Lock, second-stringer Brett Rypien and practice squad hurler Blake Bortles were out, too, because of possible exposure. The next signal caller on the depth chart after this quartet was a running back, Royce Freeman, so the Broncos went into panic mode. First, the franchise asked the NFL if they could activate an assistant coach, Rob Calabrese — and when the league nixed that possibility, they handed the offensive keys to Kendall Hinton, who’d played some quarterback for Wake Forest but had been added to the practice squad as a wide receiver. Moreover, everything happened so quickly that Hinton didn’t even get a chance to practice under center, aside from a few minutes of on-the-field rehearsals just before the game started.

The Broncos definitely let their novel coronavirus-related guard down, as Lock conceded in an apologetic social media post. But earlier in the season, the Tennessee Titans, which had blatantly disregarded best practices, was allowed to line up a week later than originally planned rather than play at a severe disadvantage, and there have been other postponements owing to the novel coronavirus, too — among them the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers faceoff now planned for Tuesday, December 1.

But Denver wasn’t so lucky. With the season winding down, the NFL plainly decided it was time to send a message to other teams about what can happen if they don’t keep COVID-19 at bay — and they chose the Broncos, which has no big stars and appears to be going nowhere, to serve as an example.

Little analysis of the action that followed is needed. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s plan was a bad joke in which every move was telegraphed — and rather than giving Hinton short passes that might have helped him build confidence, he repeatedly asked the near-novice to throw the ball down the field, leading to predictable disaster. Hinton finished with one completion to a teammate (tight end Noah Fant, who picked up thirteen yards), two to the Saints and six more to the ground. Denver’s only score, a 58-yard Brandon McManus field goal, came as a result of good work by the defense, which actually played pretty well despite the number of points racked up by New Orleans.

Afterward, Broncos fans were appalled and disgusted, and understandably so, since the NFL had just embarrassed a proud squad on national television. See what we mean by counting down our picks for most memorable tweets, capped by a handful from Saints loyalists who weren’t nearly as sympathetic.

To put it mildly.

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