Broncos' playoff chances have a mile-high mountain to climb

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos put in a good enough effort on defense to win Sunday. Coach Vic Fangio won the ultimate gamble by going for two in the final minute to take a brief lead. But the Broncos couldn't overcome their own penalty flags, some offensive struggles and a last-second kick from Eddy Pineiro as they fell to 0-2 with a 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.

It means the Broncos -- a team that has missed the postseason the past three seasons -- face a rather tall climb against a mountain of history if they are going to get themselves into the playoff conversation in the 14 games ahead. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, just 30 of 238 teams that started a season 0-2 made the playoffs -- that is a not so robust 12.6 percent success rate.

The Broncos are 0-2 for the first time since 1999 when they finished the year 6-10 in their first following the retirement of John Elway.

The game in two words: Big trouble. Yes, there is plenty of football to play in the months ahead, but the Broncos are exactly what first-year coach Vic Fangio was hired to keep them from being -- a penalty-marred outfit that can't sack opposing quarterbacks (no sacks in two games).

Troubling trend: They won't get much accomplished on offense if they can't find some kind of combination that works up front. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James' knee injury in the season opener hasn't helped matters given Elijah Wilkinson has had to replace James in the lineup.

Wilkinson is the guy the Broncos would use if they wanted to move left tackle Garett Bolles out of the lineup. And Bolles has struggled plenty thus far given he has been flagged five times for holding in the first two games combined -- three have been declined. Four of those holding flags were against the Bears.

Quarterback Joe Flacco was certainly accurate and has operated well in the offense, but the Broncos can't consistently give Flacco enough time to let routes develop and defenses know it. Much of the time the Broncos are a dump-off affair in the passing game and both the Raiders and Bears have been free to crowd the line of scrimmage.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Two games and no sacks for the defense, let alone no sacks for Von Miller, Bradley Chubb or anyone else in the lineup, including on the pivotal last possession for the Bears, who squeezed just enough out of the final seconds to get Pineiro a chance for the 53-yard game winner.

Yes, the two offenses they've played have done their best to get the ball out of the quarterbacks' hands quickly and those offenses have used plenty of heavy personnel groupings -- two tight ends or two backs -- but no sacks is no sacks. Fangio has had too much success in the past with the kinds of pass-rushers the Broncos have. What they've tried so far hasn't worked.

QB breakdown: The Broncos had clearly decided to get the ball out of Flacco's hands quickly -- he averaged just over 8 yards a completion through three quarters -- and he was efficient and calm, including on the last possession that should have been good enough to win the game.

But efficient isn't going to get the ball in the end zone enough. The Broncos struggled to consistently run the ball against the Bears defense so their play-action game was muted. The big plays in this offense are going to come out of the play-action, so the rushing totals need to rise before the downfield plays will follow.

Pivotal play: Chubb was flagged for roughing the passer on the Bears' last possession, a call he disputed by pointing at the video screens in the stadium. Chubb, after the Bears' last-second kick, threw his helmet in anger. The penalty gave the Bears just enough field position to get close enough for the kick.