A game where a team’s defense holds an opponent to 242 yards, prevents it from converting on 9 of its 12 third-downs and zero of its fourth downs, makes an amazing goal-line stand for four downs against one of the best running backs in the league and holds “the enemy” to only two touchdowns is often a team on the winning side of the equation.
But that assumes the offense can hold its own to score.
Unfortunately, the math for the Broncos just isn’t adding up.
And in fact yesterday it didn’t have to add at all since there was no scoring to be had in any way.
For the first time since 1992, the Broncos couldn’t score a single point in four quarters.
“We got shut out. We have to figure it out,” quarterback Trevor Siemian said in the most frustrating understatement of the year.
But Siemian - who threw an interception and lost a fumble among his 25-of-35 attempts for 207 yards - has an idea what needs to get “figured out.”
“We have not been really good on first and second downs. That makes third downs tough for us,” he said, noting that early on in the season the Broncos more often only had to convert third-and-short. “These last two weeks I have not played good enough. I turned it over, and it is tough for these guys to win.”
Broncos offense today:— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) October 22, 2017
Turnover on downs
Coach Vance Joseph and the rest of the offense, however, refuse to let Siemian take all the blame.
“When the run game is effective, [Siemian] can play fast and keep us in shrub third downs,” Joseph said. “Right now every third down is eight, nine, 10. That’s a tough spot for a young quarterback to be in.”
The reason for those third downs had a lot to do with the Broncos’ 69 total yards rushing in which Siemian’s 14 yards were the second most from a player on the day.
But the multiple passes short of the first-down marker and the lengthy time holding onto the ball, giving Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, ample opportunity for multiple sacks, didn’t help.
“We didn’t do our job today and that’s why the scoreboard looked the way it looked,” said running back Jamaal Charles, who gained a mere two yards on four attempts all day - far, far below his average.
But it was Demaryius Thomas who said what everyone on the team felt - the shutout, first in 25 years, just “hurt.”
“I didn’t even know that stat. Being shut out period in the NFL with the talent we have hurts,” said Thomas, who was sixth on the list of top receivers for the Broncos yesterday, catching two passes for nine yards. “I can only speak on myself, I can’t speak on everybody but it hurt. I’m going to get better and hopefully everyone else around me sees me working and we get better as a group.”
The potential offensive highlight of the game was an 81-yard grab by DT midway through the third quarter that was called back for offensive pass interference. Instead of 1st and 10 from the Chargers’ 10, it was 1st and 15 from the Broncos’ 4. Three plays later, punter Riley Dixon trotted out for the last of his eight punts of the day.
Take away one flag and Demaryius Thomas has 3 catches, 90 yards. Instead he has 2 catches, 9 yards.— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) October 22, 2017
It was a perfect metaphor for this offense this season - a big play that could have turned momentum in the Broncos favor was stripped away with a penalty.
“It was a dagger. It was a big play, something we needed. It was a spark,” Thomas said of the call, which he said “just sucked” because it could have changed the whole game. ”As a whole, as an offense, we still have to play better. Whatever gets called we have to execute better. We have to stop hurting ourselves. When you get first downs and go backwards, that’s not good football.”
Even the defense, which tries to keep the focus on its own play and not dog the offense, let some frustration show.
"It's definitely at a high. It's hard when you can't make those plays and change the game. That's frustrating when you're just kind of out there,” said Chris Harris Jr. who contributed two solo tackles to the stats chart. “We practice hard. We try to come in and play great defensively. We do whatever we can to make plays and get the offense the ball. We have to just figure out how to get points up there."
Aside from the offense actually getting points on the board the way it should, Von Miller believes the defense should try to do even more - mainly because it has to if this team is going to have a chance at beating another team.
“We have to create turnovers,” said the edge rusher who got two sacks on the day and didn’t even feel like celebrating. “The problem is a tough problem to solve because there are so many ways to get turnovers, and we are not getting any of them. ...We have playmakers all across the field, and we have to get them to make plays on defense to put our offense in a better position.”
Miller noted that the frustration on the defense takes it toll in the locker room, but they are a team and if they win together, they lose together.
“It’s tough when you don’t put up any points. It’s terrible. Organizationally, when you look at the scoreboard and see a big goose egg, it’s terrible,” Miller said. “But we are not going to point fingers. We could have gotten a turnover. Aqib Talib is a pick-six machine. I am a sack machine. We have guys over there that create turnovers. We are just not doing it. I figure if we can do that, it will alleviate some of the tension.”
As the Broncos sit at 3-3 with some of the toughest teams on their schedule yet to come, it would be easy to give up.
It’s not in Miller’s DNA to do that. No matter what the outcome is, No. 58 will not let his teammates think of such a response.
“Losses always hurt. Adversity is always tough. ...It always feels the same. It always feels like it’s the end of the world. Your back is against the wall – you have to do something right now,” he said, adding that that is OK but going back to work tomorrow to get better is the only option.
“We will go to work tomorrow, practice great, and our breaks will come,” Miller added. “Obviously like I have said before, we have some issues that we have to address on different phases of the ball and we will do that. We have great leadership and 100 percent I believe we will get those issues resolved.”
It’s a tall order to get them resolved before Kansas City on the road next weekend, but Miller continues to do the only thing he can - do whatever possible to get a win one week at a time.
“We are in a really tough spot. We are going against the best team in the National Football League next week,” he said. “This division is tough; I’ve said that before. We’ve been here before; it’s nothing new. We’re in a tough stretch.
Getting out of this funk on offense + the defense ballin’ = the only chance the Broncos have for this season to add up to success.