DENVER — The Broncos attempted to come back but fell short as the team lost its fourth straight game to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20.
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Neither the wintry weather nor the Broncos’ spongy defense could slow down Todd Gurley .
The Rams running back rumbled for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries and Los Angeles celebrated defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ homecoming Sunday with a 23-20 win over the reeling Denver Broncos.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without those guys up front,” said Gurley, whose previous high was 159 yards at Green Bay in 2015. “It was kind of easy for me, honestly, because those guys did such a great job.”
And Denver’s defense succumbed again.
A week after allowing 323 yards rushing in a loss to the Jets, including 219 by Isaiah Crowell, the Broncos were gashed for 270 yards on the ground.
“We knew we were going to be a little bit leaky in the run today because the pass was our focus,” Von Miller said. “But 270 yards is just, you know, ridiculous.”
“We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t fit well,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “That’s two weeks in a row — unacceptable.”
The Rams, who had surrendered 31 points in back-to-back games, improved to 6-0 in sending the Broncos (2-4) to their fourth straight loss.
The Broncos pulled to 23-20 on Case Keenum’s 1-yard dart to Demaryius Thomas with 1:22 remaining, but Rams receiver Robert Woods knocked Brandon McManus’ onside kick out of bounds, and the Rams ran out the clock with Keenum’s one-time understudy Jared Goff (14 of 28 for 201 yards on his 24th birthday) twice taking a knee.
Phillips was the Broncos’ beloved bandmaster when they were celebrating their Super Bowl 50 triumph, but his contract wasn’t renewed after the 2016 season and he joined Sean McVay in sunny Southern California.
After an overnight snowstorm, the game-time temperature of 25 degrees marked the second-coldest in Denver prior to November in franchise history.
The cold did nothing to slow down Gurley, who scored his 10th and 11th touchdowns of the season.
Gurley’s first score came after a boneheaded move by Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who thought he had a 44-yard TD catch and jabbed a finger in cornerback Troy Hill’s face, drawing a taunting foul.
Upon review, Sanders was ruled down at the 1, and the unsportsmanlike 15-yard penalty pushed the Broncos back to the 16.
Instead of an extra point to give Denver a 7-6 lead, McManus ended up kicking a 28-yard field goal.
Sanders, who had a 22-yard TD catch in the second half, blamed himself for the loss.
“Me, honestly, I feel like the league is getting soft,” Sanders said. “I’m having fun. I didn’t do anything crazy to the guy besides say, ‘Hey, I got you on that play.’ I pointed my finger at him. And they threw the flag.”
He said he’s done that his whole career.
“It was a great throw by Case. I came down with it. Emotions are high. It’s not like I walked up to him and head-butted him or something,” Sanders said. “But it cost my team. We lost by three points. I feel like we could have easily punched that ball in and gotten four (more). I guess this loss is on me.”
STILL THE SAME
Joseph promised changes this week but those alterations were either cosmetic or schematic — and, ultimately, fruitless.
Max Garcia replaced right guard Connor McGovern, but McGovern rotated back in and Garcia moved over when left guard Ronald Leary (ankle) got hurt in the third quarter.
If the Broncos had better options, scuffling cornerback Bradley Roby — who again gave up big plays — and left tackle Garett Bolles — who was flagged for his NFL-high sixth holding call Sunday — also might have been benched.
Bolles and Garcia had holding calls that pushed Denver out of scoring range.
Roby took over Aqib Talib’s starting spot when the Broncos traded Talib to the Rams in the spring. Talib is sidelined by an ankle injury.
Still, Talib made the trip with his teammates, walking with a boot on his left foot and a crutch under his right arm and was on the sideline during warmups.
Miller snapped a three-week sackless streak with 1 1-2 sacks and rookie Bradley Chubb had three sacks.
“It’s good that I get to the quarterback three times, but it’s not good enough,” Chubb said.
The Broncos have a short week before going to Arizona on Thursday.
“So, we can’t get caught up on this game, as much as I want to,” Miller said. “I hate losing more than I love winning. … The only good thing about this is we’re back in the lab tomorrow and we’ve got a game on Thursday.”
Rams WR Cooper Kupp was carted off the field after wrenching his left knee when Broncos S Darian Stewart horse-collared him on the Broncos sideline after a 12-yard jet sweep in the second quarter, but he made a surprising return in the second half. OLB Matt Longacre (back) and LT Andrew Whitworth (possible concussion) also left the game.
Broncos S Dymonte Thomas (chest) and Leary got hurt and didn’t return.
Rams: Wrap up three-game road swing with a visit to San Francisco.
Broncos: Have a short week to get ready for a game at Arizona on Thursday night.