Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock fumbles the ball as he is hit by Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White during the second half of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER | The potential feel-good story for the Denver Broncos’ emergency kicker turned into a nightmare with a missed field goal and two pushed extra points.

Taylor Russolino, a late fill-in for Brandon McManus, was hardly the only one off the mark for Denver on this forgettable afternoon.

Drew Lock struggled to ignite the offense and the Denver defense couldn’t stop Josh Allen or Stefon Diggs as the Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East title with a 48-19 win on Saturday.

The Broncos (5-9) clinched something, too — a fourth straight losing season. What’s more, the Broncos are assured of missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season.

“We all know the expectations here in Denver, the winning tradition this organization has,” safety Justin Simmons conceded. ”There’s no asterisk next to our record saying injury and COVID-19. It just says wins or losses. That’s all anyone cares about.

“At the end of the day, of course, I’m always going to be hopeful because I believe we have a really good team.”

Not on this windy day that began with Russolino sending a 51-yard field goal wide right on the opening drive. The former XFL kicker was added with McManus sidelined because of COVID-19 concerns. Russolino also missed two extra points, including one before halftime after Noah Fant’s score trimmed it to 21-13.

No finger pointing, though.

“Everybody’s human,” Fant said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I have no clue what it’s like to be in his shoes. I have no clue what it’s like to kick a field goal. I’m not the guy to be real upset about things like that.”

Plus, there was plenty of blame to spread around against Buffalo (11-3). The Broncos secondary was lit up as part of the Josh Allen Show.

To think, Denver could’ve drafted Allen at No. 5 in 2018. The Broncos took Bradley Chubb, instead.

Allen gave them a glimpse of what they missed, throwing for 359 yards and two TDs. He also ran for two scores.

His favorite target was the tough-to-cover Stefon Diggs, who hauled in 11 passes for 147 yards on a banged-up Broncos defensive backfield.

“Josh Allen is a great quarterback,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “He’s right up there with the best in the league.”

Fangio’s QB couldn’t get much going, especially in the second half. Lock threw for just 33 yards after halftime. He also had a fumble that Jerry Hughes returned 21 yards for a score to make it 35-13.

This after Lock turned in a four-touchdown performance at Carolina last weekend.
Lock refuted the notion the offense took a step back on a day when receivers Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler caught a combined five passes.

“I wouldn’t say that any of us are feeling in a way that we’re taking a step back,” said Lock, who was 20 of 32 for 132 yards and one TD. “That was not a good day for us, by any means. Our job is to figure out why it wasn’t, what we did wrong, what we could’ve done better, and go from there.”

The defense surrendered its most points since Fangio took over, including a 51-yard TD run from tailback Devin Singletary through the heart of Denver’s defense with the outcome long decided.

This may have best exemplified Denver’s level of frustration: Linebacker Alexander Johnson was called for a personal foul for throwing Allen out of bounds in the third quarter. On the next play, Broncos cornerback Michael Ojemudia was ejected for throwing a punch at Bills receiver Gabriel Davis.

“You’re going to have a bad play every once in a while. How you recover is how it matters — if you’re going to play down the rest of the game or you’re going to come back and try to kick butt the rest of the game,” Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell said. “Just try to stay even-keeled.”