There was a day not so long ago that when the Broncos held the opposing quarterback to 14 of 28 passes with one interception, no touchdowns and five sacks, it was a definite win. Possibly even a shellacking.
But that was before the Broncos’ run defense would give up 270 yards rushing, including 208 to one player, and the Broncos’ offense would give very little attention to its surprisingly good run game.
And now the team sits at 2-4, following four losses in a row, asking itself what can be done.
For Broncos’ GM John Elway, the sad reality is that at this point in the season, there is no magic fix.
“I wish we had the magic switch that we could just fix this thing, but once in the season, there are not a lot of fixes,” John Elway told Dave Logan on Orange and Blue 760 Monday morning. “The only fix is to continue to work hard and get better and have coaches get better and have players play better. At this point, that’s the only thing we have because there isn’t a magic switch with a magic answer that’s going to fix everything.”
Elway called the 23-20 loss to the Rams “disappointing” because the Broncos’ fight for a win was too little, too late.
“At some point, we have to play better football,” Elway said, adding that the desire is there. “We hung in there and battled, but it was still not good football. Even though we had our hands full with the Rams, it’s disappointing we didn’t play better.”
The Broncos’ defense had some bright spots, holding one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses to just 23 points, forcing three field goals once in the red zone, finally getting an interception and sacking Jared Goff five times is something to build on.
But that run defense???
And Elway knows it. When Logan asked how the Broncos fix it, The Duke laughed a little and said, “good question.”
“Obviously we’ve gotten very soft in there, and to give up the amount yardage the last two weeks is tough. We’re not playing very well inside,” he said, noting that the Rams are a good rushing team, and Todd Gurley is a “very very good back. That is a big, big concern right now, and we have to figure out how to get that solved.”
Unfortunately, that’s not the only big concern for the Broncos. The red zone offense leaves a lot to be desired, and Elway is more than aware of that.
“Red zone-wise we’ve got to do a better job,” he said, adding that the lack of production is not just one thing. It’s penalties, mistakes, bad decisions. “It’s a combination of a lot of things we’ve got to get figured out in a hurry.”
But time is running out fast and really the only thing the team can do at this point is fight to turn it around. And make no mistake, that is a TEAM effort in Elway’s mind - not just the coaches, not just the players, and not excluding the GM.
“It’s a combination of everything. And bottom line is it starts with me and goes on down because everybody has their responsibility,” he acknowledged. “In football it’s never one player, it’s never one situation. That’s why it’s hard to win because you have to have the right combination on the coaching staff, the right kind of combination of players, and it all has to mend together.”
It may sound like the obvious to us, but Elway is making a great point as well as only slightly tipping his hand - changes from now until Week 17 are going to be players and coaches doing better. The reassessment on that “combination” of coaches and players will come once the season is over.
“You’ve got to get 11 guys going the same direction and that’s how you win in football - as a team,” Elway said, adding the combination of scheme and players not playing great is the deadly combo keeping the team from winning. “And when you don’t 11 guys going the same direction and not playing well...it’s tough to win in this league.”
Elway knows as good as anyone what it is like to be in a locker room after several losses, and he believes getting that next win is the best formula for changing the tide.
“Any time you play in this, and after going through what went through last year, no question it’s a bad feeling,” Elway said. “You can’t hide from it. The only way you get away from it is get to Sunday and go play and play well and win.
“Players have to play better. Coaches have to play better. Get some positive things going on,” he added. “After four losses, it’s very difficult to stay positive, but you have to make an effort to stay positive. That’s the ONLY way you’re going to get out of this.”