Two years ago, the Broncos began ditching the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans 0-4.
Momentum generated, the Broncos hosted Kansas City in prime time and were eliminated from the stadium, 30–7 – beginning four defeats in five games.
Last year, the Broncos started climbing from a 0-3 start, winning three of their next four games.
Hope made it, the Broncos losing consecutive games in Atlanta and Las Vegas – beginning a 2-7 fall to finish the season.
Is this year’s Broncos team any different? Can they get off the canvas (coach Vic Fangio’s boxing analogy) after being on the business end of a mower from Baltimore last week? Are they prepared with enough leaders to avoid starting a losing streak in Pittsburgh on Sunday?
“We don’t have a choice,” safety Justin Simmons said Wednesday before the exercise. “We have to respond. It’s not last Sunday’s defeat that defines you as a football team, that’s how you respond to the loss that defines you as a good football team.”
For this the leaders gave notices to their colleagues.
“This week’s practice needs to be faster than it has been in the weeks before and it just can’t stop here, it has to take the tough environment in Pittsburgh and find a way to win,” Simmons said.
The Broncos need a sense of serviceable desperation.
They know opponents in weeks 6-7 – 3-1 in Las Vegas and 3-1 in Cleveland in a short week on the road. They know the injury status of their roster – quarterback Teddy Bridgewater remains in concussion protocol. And they know the Steelers are falling (1-3).
“Pittsburgh is always going to play with a sense of urgency,” Fangio said. “That’s all they are and we have to be ready to make our own.”
Three things will factor into flying the Broncos home 4-1 or 3-2:
1. Big Dramas on Crime
The Broncos averaged 4.35 yards per rushing attempt (12th) and 10.92 yards per completion (19th). The loss of receivers Jerry Judy and KJ Hamler was felt against Baltimore, when the Broncos were passing 1-for-8 on attempts traveling at least 16 “air” yards.
Of receiver Cortland Sutton’s 18 catches, only four have been “explosive” gains (at least 16 yards).
The Broncos in general and Sutton and receiver Tim Patrick (five explosive catches out of 15) in particular need to get chances to stretch the field vertically.
“We want to be those people,” Sutton said of accepting the pressures of production. “I use the term ‘being spooned.’ You have regular milk and then you put chocolate in there and you need spoons. I see myself as someone who wants to be spooned And makes a knack for eliminating the offense and getting some juice out.
2. Back on the Takeaway Train
The Broncos are 8-3 under Fangio on winning turnover difference, including wins over Jacksonville and the Jets last month.
Against Baltimore, the defense, doing mostly solid work to stop the run, couldn’t give a painstaking offense a short field to climb back into the game.
The Steelers have five turnovers in four matches.
3. Better pass security
Left tackle Garrett Bowles was booked for half the sack in 15 games last year, according to The Denver Post’s game charting.
Through four matches this year, he is on the hook for four sacks and one knockdown and four pressures.
After Boles himself was criticized after the Ravens game, Fangio said: “He needs to get better. He should criticize himself. He (Sunday) didn’t play well enough.”
dry? Yes. Pure? Yes. Boles is paid to be elite. need to take it.
The Broncos have allowed 43 “odds” through four games (12 sacks, 13 knockdowns and 20 pressures).
In Fangio’s first two years, the Broncos had seven multi-game losing streaks. It’s time to escape from the eighth.
“Everybody comes in every day with the right mindset about how we’re going to get better today,” said defensive end Shelby Harris. “You can’t do anything about Baltimore — it’s over for Pittsburgh.”