No sentient being should be surprised that the Denver Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs during a Sunday Night Football square-off on December 6. After all, the Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl champs, thanks largely to the presence of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the most exciting young player in the NFL, while the Broncos are a sad shadow of their once championship-caliber selves and are coming off a game in which all of their designated QBs were ruled ineligible because of COVID-19 protocols. At least Denver kept the contest close, succumbing in the end by only a 22-16 margin.

But managing to avoid abject humiliation on national television is a far cry from victory, as the post-game reaction of Broncos fans on Twitter made abundantly clear. A sizable percentage called for most, if not all, of the squad’s brain trust to be fired, including team executive John Elway, underperforming offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and head coach Vic Fangio, whose decision to punt the ball near midfield during the waning minutes of the game left even many of the squad’s truest believers smacking their head in dismay.

Also coming in for more than his fair share of social media abuse was Denver signal caller Drew Lock, who’d received much of the blame for the previous week’s coronavirus-related debacle; while he wasn’t the only player to break the league’s COVID-19 rules, he was the team’s on-field leader and should have been more careful. In the first series, he fell into his usual good play/bad play pattern, hitting tight end Noah Fant for a big gain and then promptly offering up an interception on a pass even high schoolers should know better than to try. But because the Broncos’ defense mostly held Mahomes and his powerful offense in check, Denver still went into halftime with a 10-9 lead.

This advantage evaporated in the third quarter, but a Lock-to-Tim Patrick TD (the second of the contest) put the Broncos in front again, 16-12. Predictably, the Chiefs came back with a quick seven points, but the Broncos had plenty of time for an answer — and managed to reach their own 49 with just over six minutes to play. Facing a fourth and three, Fangio, who clearly has more faith in the D than the O, opted to give Mahomes back the ball, however, and he promptly led Kansas City on a field goal drive that ate up most of the clock. The Broncos had one last possession, but a panic-mode Lock soon did what he does (threw another pick), sealing Denver’s doom.

Fangio’s conservative play call might have made sense if the Broncos were leading the division and in strong playoff position. But the outfit has absolutely zero chance of reaching the post-season at this point, and had nothing to lose other than its self-respect — if any still remained. And so the conclusion was dispiritingly predictable.

The following twenty tweets offer a very good sense of the reaction that followed.

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