DENVER — This is another tape the Denver Broncos might not want to watch.
By the time the Broncos' 20-point fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 36-33 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Invesco Field was mostly empty, and dark storm clouds hung over both the city and its tarnished football franchise.
The fans have had it with a tarnished team that's been in the news for the wrong reasons: trades gone bad, a captain's DUI arrest, and now a videotaping scandal that cost an underling his job and coach Josh McDaniels and the team $50,000 each.
The NFL ruled that McDaniels didn't view video chief Steve Scarnecchia's illicit 6-minute tape of the San Francisco 49ers' practice in London last month but punished him for not immediately reporting the infraction to the league as required.
The commissioner wants to meet with the fired videographer this week and could reopen its investigation of the Broncos if he provides evidence this wasn't an isolated incident as the league concluded.
The Broncos' sixth loss in their last eight home games featured more of the same troubles that have tormented them all season: a sieve of a defense that's allowing a league-worst 35.9 points a game and an inability to counter opponents' adjustments.
After falling behind 10-0 early, the Rams (5-6), who moved into a tie with Seattle for first place in the NFC West, outscored the Broncos 33-3.
Rams rookie Sam Bradford had his first 300-yard game and team owner Stan Kroenke — whose Denver-based sports empire includes the Nuggets, Avalanche and the MSL champion Rapids — had a game ball courtesy of Steven Jackson tucked under his arm as he congratulated his players on the triumph.
"This was a huge step for this team, taking it to the next level," Bradford said of his first road win. "It's obviously something we've struggled with earlier in the year. But to finally clear that hurdle, I feel like only things can get better now."
The Broncos (3-8) are feeling the same way.
Embattled coach Josh McDaniels declined to say much more about the scandal that cost video operations director Steve Scarnecchia his job and could lead to his banishment from the NFL when he meets with commissioner Roger Goodell.
Scarnecchia was part of New England's video staff that was involved in the original Spygate scandal four years ago, and McDaniels declined to respond to new reports he told his staff on Friday that the Broncos' videotaping troubles weren't on the same magnitude as the systemic illicit videotaping that happened in New England.
"I'm done with that. I'm done talking about that," McDaniels fumed.
His players said they weren't bothered by the scandal.
"There wasn't one bit of distraction. We had one team meeting over it and it was pretty much over after three minutes," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "There's stuff that happens throughout an entire NFL season and as pros and as men you worry about your own business. You only worry about your own work."
It clearly left others befuddled, however.
"Nobody really knows how to take it," Champ Bailey said. "Obviously, we didn't see any tapes. And if we did, it didn't work."
Bailey said he felt bad for team owner Pat Bowlen because the scandal stained the organization. Justin Bannan said he felt bad for his coach.
"Josh didn't do anything wrong," Bannan insisted. "Josh is a great coach and we've got his back and he's got ours. Obviously, things are tough right now, but what are you going to do? What we're going to do is come out and play better football."
With signs in the crowd calling for McDaniels' firing, a 33-3 run by the Rams gave St. Louis a seemingly safe 33-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Orton threw TD passes of 41 and 5 yards to Brandon Lloyd and 16 yards to Eddie Royal to make a game of it.
The Broncos got the ball back with 1:06 remaining and no timeouts, but they had a sack, a dropped pass, an overthrow and an incompletion when defensive end Chris Long hit Orton as he released his last pass.
Their offense just couldn't atone for another bad day on defense.
"We have to play better defense, have to coach better and giving up 30-something points is tough to consistently try to match on offense," McDaniels said.
Notes: Dawkins injured his right knee in the third quarter and didn't return. ... McDaniels is 5-16 since winning his first six games last year.
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