ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Somewhere in between what Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph has called “great practices" and “great work" during the week and what has happened to the Broncos on the past four game days, the message has been lost in translation.
All involved -- players and coaches alike for what is now a 3-3 team that is more than a little wobbly -- have said they have a talented roster and they’ve had good game plans. So why have the Broncos lost three of the past four games and needed an interception by safety Justin Simmons in the final seconds against the Oakland Raiders to preserve the one win in the past four games?
“It’s puzzling," Joseph said Monday.
With the Broncos now facing road trips to Kansas City and Philadelphia the next two games, followed by a home game against the New England Patriots, they are decidedly into the teeth of the schedule. This all comes after four consecutive weeks of offensive struggles and special-teams bobbles that reached a low point with the first shutout loss for the Broncos in 25 years on Sunday.
The Chargers defeated the Broncos 21-0, despite just 242 total yards, eight punts (the same number the Broncos had) and six possessions on which they gained 5 or fewer yards. They did it because the Broncos surrendered a punt return for a touchdown -- “an awful punt," Joseph called it -- and the Broncos' offense turned the ball over three times, allowed five sacks and had five three-and-outs.
Toss in some run game struggles and consistently difficult down-and-distance situations, and Joseph said he needs to make sure that the players are not only getting but also retaining the information they need to succeed and that the coaches are delivering the messages the way they need to.
“We have to revamp how we’re teaching these players and get more positive play out of some guys," Joseph said. “ ... Less meetings, maybe more walk-throughs ... It’s not happening on game day ... we have too many mistakes."
The Broncos have 10 games remaining, but it’s the next three -- against teams that all have five wins before the Eagles’ Monday night appearance -- that give everything around the Broncos a have-to-fix-it-now feel.
“We’re going to find out who wants to make plays," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We're going to see who wants to go to the next level."
The Broncos have fallen into a familiar pattern in recent weeks, especially in the three losses. They’ve seen their run game be less effective, they’ve turned the ball over trying to dig their way out, and they don’t protect well enough to spread the field to go into throw-first mode. In their three wins, they have rushed the ball at least 32 times, and in their three losses, they’ve had 23, 17 and 19 carries.
“In all three losses, it all looks the same: We’ve got busted assignments and turnovers, and we can’t overcome it," Joseph said. “ ... We have to coach better. We have to play better, all of us."
After last season, when there was in-house drama when the offense couldn’t rise above its troubles before the struggles in run defense finally caught up to the team’s defense, the Broncos are trying to avoid any issues this time around, as the No. 1 defense in the league continues to grind away.
“We’re all pros. We’re all brothers in there," linebacker Von Miller said Sunday night. “It’s tough. It’s terrible ... We’re not going to point fingers. We could have got a turnover."
“We have to coach and play better. Something’s not clicking," Joseph said. “ ... We have to get better at the details ... something’s not clicking, and we have to find it."