ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Playing for the future, as Head Coach Gary Kubiak suggested after Sunday night's 33-10 loss to Kansas City, doesn't mean changing as much of the starting lineup as a 53-man roster would permit.
Instead, it's about turning the page.
"What I said after the game, I told the players I wanted them on the plane ride home to clear their head," he said. "We look at next week as moving on to the future. We can't do [anything] about this season. That's what I told them."
For the first time since Week 17 of the 2010 season, the Broncos know their season will end at the final gun of their last regular-season game. And before the Broncos can begin their preparations for the season finale with the Raiders, there are questions to confront.
- NO DECISION YET ON WHETHER PAXTON LYNCH WILL PLAY**
Kubiak said he would decide whether he would play the rookie quarterback -- and to what degree -- "in the next couple of days."
"We got home at 3:30 in the morning, so I haven't made any decisions today," said Kubiak, who gave the players a day off Monday in addition to their normal Tuesday off-day.
Kubiak acknowledged that injuries have affected Trevor Siemian's play "a little bit," particularly in his mobility after he suffered a sprained left foot.
Sunday in Kansas City, Siemian posted his lowest single-game quarterback rating (43.1), yardage per attempt (4.3) and completion percentage (39.5).
"He would be the first one to tell you [that] he has to play a hell of a lot better than he did, but that's across the board," Kubiak said. "There are a lot of places that we have to play a lot better than we did last night."
- BY ANY TERM, SLOW START KILLED BRONCOS HOPES**
Some players, including Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr., suggested that the team was "flat" during a first quarter in which the Chiefs roared to 21 points -- more than the Broncos had given up in nine entire games this season.
"We just came out flat," said Harris. "We weren't ready for what they had for us, with No. 10 [Tyreek Hill] running the ball outside. We weren't ready at all."
But Kubiak said he wouldn't necessarily describe the team as "flat" at the start.
"I don't know about that word. Obviously we played poorly. We gave up three 80-yard-plus touchdown drives in the first four times [Alex Smith] touched the ball. That's not like us."
Being gashed to such an extreme is unusual for the Broncos, but early deficits are typical for them. Their minus-61 first-quarter scoring margin is the NFL's worst, as is their 33-point tally in the opening 15 minutes of games this year.
Only four teams have allowed more first-quarter points than the Broncos, who have surrendered 94 opening-quarter points this season -- a stunning contrast to the second, third and fourth quarters, in which the Broncos rank first, 10th and fourth in fewest points allowed, respectively.
"The thing we did last year, we were able to get leads in games. People had to play differently against us. They had to throw the ball," Kubiak said. "You go back to the playoffs, we scored first in all three of those playoff games, in the first possession. We haven't gotten anybody in that position here in the last month. I think that's been a big difference."
- COULD SOME PLAYERS BE MOVED TO INJURED RESERVE?**
It's possible, given the collection of players who are currently dealing with various injuries, which could complicate the Broncos' ability to get to 46 healthy players on the game-day active roster next Sunday.
"I think we've got to look at a lot of things," Kubiak said. "John [Elway] and I just talked briefly this morning, but obviously we continue to have issues going on."
Safety T.J. Ward and tight ends A.J. Derby and Virgil Green remain in the league-mandated post-concussion protocol after being injured eight days ago against New England, Kubiak said. Cornerback Kayvon Webster is now in the protocol after suffering a concussion on a second-quarter kickoff.
"Obviously, we've got to get everybody we can get to Sunday," Kubiak said. "We're pushing everybody to go."
The Broncos' loss to Kansas City put an end to a franchise-record playoff streak that will end at five years. (Photos by AP)
- SURGERY LOOMING FOR PARADIS**
"Everybody" is expected to include center Matt Paradis, who has played every snap this season despite battling issues in both hips that forced Kubiak to rest him for multiple practice days most weeks in the last two months.
"He's facing an offseason surgery," Kubiak said. "But I know [playing] is important to Matt. He's always ready to battle. I expect that from everybody -- and I have gotten that from everybody."
Paradis has played more snaps the last two seasons than any other player in football, and has not missed a single offensive snap the last two seasons.
5. WOLFE'S NECK INJURY DIFFERENT THAN LAST WEEK'S
Defensive end Derek Wolfe left in the first half Sunday because of what was announced as a neck injury, but Kubiak said it was not an aggravation of what he incurred against New England.
"He did something else," Kubiak said. "He actually wrenched his neck in another spot."
Wolfe played 14 snaps Sunday despite not practicing all week because of the first neck injury and a subsequent illness that kept him out last Thursday and Friday.
"He's been through a lot. He tried to battle for us," Kubiak said. "He came in Saturday and said, 'Kub, I'm gonna play; I'm gonna make it. He wanted to play. You applaud guys like that to give it up for a team."