ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Eight teams dropped more passes than the Broncos' 26 in the regular season, per STATS, Inc. Eleven teams dropped them at a higher rate than the Broncos, who dropped one every 15.15 passes that were on target.
So drops have been a problem -- and a costly one, particularly in back-to-back December defeats. But they were never as prevalent as during Sunday's, when Broncos wide receivers and running backs dropped seven passes -- including six in the first half.
The winds gusted to 30 miles per hour during the game.
"It definitely had an effect on things," said TE Owen Daniels. "When it's blowing straight across the field the way it was, balls tend to dip and dive. It's not as direct a flight as you would expect, so you kind of have to adjust to it as you're getting to it."
There are reasons, and there are excuses. The wind was a reason why the football blew around a bit. But those who dropped passes didn't want to lean on it as an excuse.
"It was windy. I dropped a pass, but I don't want to blame the wind but it happens," said C.J. Anderson, who dropped a pass that would have given the Broncos at least six yards and a first down -- and potentially a lot more, given the open space in front of him. "We just need to catch the ball and that is something we'll work on this week."
Those drops were the difference between a 222-yard day for QB Peyton Manning and at least a 299-yard one, between completing 56.8 percent and 75.7 percent of his passes, and between a quarterback rating of 74.4 and 98.8.
"We still had  yards of ball movement, but there [were nearly] 100 yards of plays out there that we left," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "We were fine. We just needed to keep plugging away. We talked about that at halftime."
And because of that, the offense was able to refocus, and the drops didn't mushroom into complete offensive dysfunction.
"We had the drops, we had those types of things going on, but we never got frustrated and tried to force a ball or turn the ball over," Kubiak said said. "We just hung in there and kept going. I think it was ultimately the difference."
With just one of the drops after halftime, the offense clearly adjusted. Manning was 10-of-15 for 123 yards in the second half; that 91.8 quarterback rating did nicely as the Broncos eventually found their footing, with Bennie Fowler overcoming two consecutive drops with a 31-yard catch-and-run on third-and-12 to kick-start their only touchdown drive of the day.
"Those two drops early, they are what they are," Fowler said. "At the end of the day, he still came to me. I had two catches, and he trusted me on a third-and-12 in the fourth. He threw me the ball and I made a play."
Fowler got his redemption on that play. Demaryius Thomas made up for his drop by taking the football into the end zone for a two-point conversion off a bubble screen. Ronnie Hillman didn't have a reception after his drop, but he did help the Broncos grind out a 13-play, 65-yard drive with five carries on the march.
The Broncos figured it out Sunday. But they know that if they drop as many passes next week, the Patriots might not give them a chance to make up for it.