Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) celebrates after a 45-yard touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half on September 23, 2018 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo
DENVER -- When a team is scuffling as much as the Denver Broncos, any mistake is magnified. That was the case in their 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
With Los Angeles leading 6-0 on two field goals early in the game, struggling Broncos quarterback Case Keenum connected with Emmanuel Sanders near the goal line on what was initially ruled a 44-yard touchdown. Sanders, an emotional leader on the offense, popped up and celebrated -- a little too much, according to the officials -- and was hit with a taunting call.
It didn't seem like a big deal until replays showed Sanders was down at the 1-yard line instead of scoring. The taunting penalty pushed Denver back to the 16 and instead of a 7-6 lead, the Broncos had to settle for a field goal.
The Rams scored the next 14 points and the Broncos merely made it a respectable final with a late touchdown.
Sanders said he didn't think he did anything to deserve the 15-yard penalty when he was going back and forth with Rams cornerback Troy Hill.
"It's just being competitive and having fun," Sanders said. "I don't think I did anything too crazy besides point a finger and tell the guy, 'Hey, I got you on that play.' I don't see the penalty in that. But I learned from it and like I said, it cost my team. I've just got to keep chugging along and don't do it again."
Sanders finished with seven catches for 115 yards, both team highs Sunday, and one touchdown. But his one mistake was costly for Denver.
"He knows better," Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. "I didn't see what happened, but obviously it was a big penalty for us. We went from being on the 1-yard line to the 16-yard line. He can't do that, he knows that."
With the Rams leading 13-3 late in the second quarter, Denver got the ball at its 9-yard line with 11 seconds left and backup quarterback Chad Kelly ran onto the field. The fans, unhappy with Keenum, started chanting Kelly's name but groaned when he simply knelt and ran into the locker room.
Kelly took the snap because Keenum was being evaluated for a concussion. He was cleared and came back. Joseph said he never considered pulling Keenum for performance.
"Case is our quarterback. He did some good things today. It wasn't obviously perfect, but he moved the ball," Joseph said. "Again, we had a chance to get 10 more points there. We got the two holding penalties, and obviously Emmanuel's penalty. We all can play better. It's been four in a row. We can all play better."
Bradley Chubb provided a silver lining on a disappointing day. The rookie linebacker had three sacks and five tackles total in his first real breakout performance.
"It's good and all that to get to the quarterback three times, but it's not good enough," Chubb said. "We feel like in the outside linebackers room, we put all the pressure on us. If we want to win, we've got to make plays. Sometimes we did make those plays, but we've just got to do more."
Denver sacked quarterback Jared Goff five times.