It’s always a tough balance when you win in the NFL, because you never want to take a win for granted.
However, it’s actually easier, in my opinion, to evaluate your performance objectively when there isn’t the bad taste of a loss in your mouth; that way, you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, as it were.
Several of Denver’s offensive players took this approach after the game: thankful for the win, but realizing that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Demaryius Thomas admitted that they need to stop putting so much pressure on their defense.
“We're gonna need more offense, that's for sure, It's hard -- you're always putting it on the defense, and at some point, that's tough to count on. There's no reason to keep it close. Last year, a lot of things went our way, but that can catch up to you.
“It’s a little worrisome. You can’t keep kicking field goals; it’s any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday. One day a team might come out and score three touchdowns on our defense and if we kick five field goals we lose the game. We’ve got to figure out what we can do to get in the end zone.”
C.J. Anderson agreed and added that they have to finish their drives, especially when they get into the red zone, or into opponents territory.
"I don't know if we're frustrated, but we've just got to learn to finish drives," Anderson said. "I don't know if that's us being young, or getting used to a new quarterback, or if it's play-calling, but we can all do better. If we keep relying on [the defense to win games], eventually it's gonna hurt us."
It’s easy to get spoiled by a defense that hasn’t allowed over 20 points, has held two of the best QBs in football under 60% completion percentage and 200 yards, and scored two TDs on their own.
But, as we saw last year, the offense knows they have to do their part and will be called on eventually to step up and win games. "There's gonna come a time when they need us," Russell Okung said, "and we're gonna be there for them. We're gonna get better -- I'm sure of it.
As John Fox always used to say “these guys get paid too” (different context, I know, but just roll with it) and there’s a lot of pride and competitiveness on the offensive side. I think they get that we’re a defensive geared team, but that shouldn’t preclude them from doing their jobs well and putting up as many points as possible.
I think part of it too is they feel the pressure to prove to the team, and the fans, that they’re worth the money being spent, especially after the big contracts handed out to guys like DT, CJ, and Emmanuel. Demaryius said, "You've got two guys ... damn, the best duo in the league, and we haven't had 100 yards in a game yet.”
Emmanuel Sanders was a little more measured in his response:
“I had three catches all in the first quarter and then after that I didn’t have a catch,” Sanders said. “It’s definitely tough going to practice and you bust your butt all of practice, having great practices going into the game thinking that you’re going to have a big game and you don’t. At the end of the day we got the win so no complaining from me. I’ll be back at work on Wednesday trying to get better, trying to put up a 100-yard game and try to show everybody that this guy over here from Denver is one of the best receivers in the league.”
I think at the end of the day, these guys get it. It’s not about the stats just for stats sake, but about helping the team win. At the same time, scoring TDs helps the team win, and that’s a big part of the focus coming away from this game.
"We've just got to be better in the red zone," Thomas said. "We had 400 yards of offense, and the defense scored two touchdowns. We scored one. Every time we get on the 30, we just ... we've just got to be better."
Okung agrees as well, and thinks that they’ll get there eventually, and when they do, it will be special.
“It's doing the little small things, and I just think that's part of having some new guys on offense, Okung said. “We're moving the ball, but in the red zone, things get tighter, and windows get smaller. It's understanding and seeing things in the very tightest space, and taking care of the ball. When we do that, we'll be unstoppable.”
Regardless of the frustrations in the red zone, the offense understands that there are still a lot of moving parts and this group has yet to hit its stride.
“[I]t is encouraging we are moving the ball but there is stuff we need to clean up and get better at. We need to finish some of those drives and make it a little easier on our defense some. But it is encouraging that we cleaned up some things and I think we have a chance to be a heck of a group.” said Trevor Siemian.
I feel like good things are to come from this offense if they can do the things they need to do in order to clean up the mistakes. One thing is for sure, we haven’t seen their best yet. And that’s exciting!
Sanders summed it up best:
“At the end of the day, all that we can do is to just keep getting better,” said Sanders. “I’ll tell you, I’d rather try to get better with two wins, than losing so everybody is smiles around here. We’re sitting here 2-0 and I know the Broncos fans are excited, and so am I.”