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Broncos insist season isn’t lost despite depressing three-game losing skid

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But it’s hard as a fan to feel much hope after that pathetic showing in Jersey against the Jets.

Denver Broncos v New York Jets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Broncos’ final play of the game against the Jets Sunday was the perfect metaphor for this season - so close but yet so far.

From the three-yard line, Case Keenum threw an end zone pass to Courtland Sutton in a desperate attempt to score that was just short and instead landed in the hands of Marcus Maye, who returned it 104 yards.

Sutton, who was not about to give up the touchdown points to his defender, chased Maye all 104 yards downfield, tackling him at the one and saving a pick-six.

“I wasn’t about to let him score,” said the rookie wideout who snagged the Broncos’ first touchdown early in the game. “I did what I thought I had to do. I knew he was closing in on the end zone and had to figure out a way to get him down.”

That is now John Elway, Vance Joseph and the rest of the team trying to run down a season that had promise of scoring and now is just hoping to chase one opponent down before it completely gets away.

“We didn’t finish well. We didn’t finish well. We have too many long third downs, which stops drives, and once we get into the red zone, we haven’t been good,” said Vance Joseph with the understatement of the day.

It’s the only thing the coach can say, of course, after losing in every phase of the game.

Case Keenum’s stats on paper look fine: 35/51 for 377 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. But the Broncos’ offense converted just four of its 14 third downs (29 percent) against a Jets team that was allowing conversion on 63 percent of third downs prior to Sunday.

The Broncos’ defense allowed 323 yards rushing - in ONE game - including a 77-yard run for a touchdown.

After a 57-yard punt from Colby Wadman, Jets returned it 51 yards to the Broncos’ 11, which thanks to a well-timed sack by Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko only yielded three points for the Jets.

“So again, we have to coach and play better. Case has to play better, all of us — it’s all of us,” the coach said. “We have to go back and regroup and play our best football next Sunday. That’s all we can do.”

He’s not wrong. But it’s hard to believe even the players are buying their promises to play better.

A dejected Von Miller knows his play is not up to standard.

“I feel like it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’ll be able to be successful. These last couple of weeks, I just haven’t been able to do it,” said Miller who had a blocked pass and a tackle for a loss - but no sacks and not nearly enough pressures. “I have got to play better. I have to make plays for my teammates. I have to rush the passer better. I have to play the run better. I’m not doing anything too good right now.”

Chris Harris Jr., who accounted for two of the defense’s eight blocked passes, is equally frustrated.

“I’m a winner, I want to win more than anybody. I’m frustrated. But, it’s football. You have to rally the troops and get back in the win column,” he said. “We have too much talent to score only 16 points and give up 34.”

Actually doing that seems to be the problem, but Harris Jr. is ready to play any scheme, any position to turn the defense around. Part of that might be reminding his fellow cornerback, Bradley Roby, how not to get torched while covering a wide receiver.

“Too many big plays. We have to rally the troops and start from square one. We have to figure out who wants to be here and who wants to change this. I’m all in. I want to win,” he said. “I don’t care who we play. Whoever I have to guard, line them up, I’m ready to do my thing.”

Derek Wolfe, who watched his first career interception go for naught after Keenum and the offense squandered good field position, did not hold back his frustration. Saying he is tired of “talking about the same shit the last two years,” Wolfe added that he has “already forgotten about this game” and the team won’t have trouble regrouping.

“Absolutely we can,” he said, noting great energy last week and to start the game. “We will watch the film and see what we did well, see what we did badly.”

Tackling, for one. But coaching for another.

While Joseph said the Broncos “are not there yet” for making any defensive coaching changes, there are clearly issues from the head coaches to the coordinators that are impacting the players’ performance.

“We have to coach better so they can play better, but we pay our players to play also, so it’s not just coaching, it’s all of us involved,” Joseph said. “So I am not going to stand up here after a loss like that and start blaming our coaches or our players. It starts with me, and we have to coach and play better. Coaches coach and players play.”

Again, Joseph is not wrong. But the inability to fix the player problems falls on coaching during the week and scheming during the game. When Roby can’t keep up with his man, something should change. When Case Keenum can’t get a third-down conversion on a pass, quit throwing the ball.

The disconnect is costing the Broncos, preventing them from translating success in practice to scores and stops in the game.

Todd Bowles is known for rushing the passer and doing things to confuse quarterbacks and pass protections,” Keenum said about his performance. “There were a few new things, but it’s no excuse. I’ve got to do better identifying that stuff and getting the ball out on time. I pride myself on getting the ball out on time and there’s definitely some instances where I didn’t (today).”

Keenum, known for his leadership on field and in the locker room, is going to have only a handful more opportunities to prove to his team that he can handle this role.

Otherwise the promises from frustrated players at the podium now will be nothing more than hollow cliches in the near future.

Thomas and Sutton still see hope.

“You can’t be mad. You can’t be upset because you have a chance to go back and try to fix it, said Thomas, who had a 105-yard reception, two-touchdown game that didn’t matter. “It’s frustration because of the players and the guys you have around and the coaches that you go to work with week in and week out. You know what we can do and what we haven’t been able to do yet. It’s just a little frustration. You try to go out and fix it and be better next week.”

For Sutton, it’s never giving up, just like his chasing down of Maye to prevent a meaningless six points for New York but a metaphorically crucial six for Denver.

“The ‘Any Given Sunday’ mentality is a real thing. I think as soon as we figure out how to get that first win, we will flip that switch and have a good rest of the season,” he said. “But ultimately, we just have to come in and get back to work and figure out how to flip that switch. We have to switch it fast before it’s too late.”

If the Broncos don’t want to watch their season run away down the sideline, they’d better find that “how to play/coach better” manual real quick.

Poll

What faith do you have in this team to turn it around before the Bye Week?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    100 percent - I keep the Kool-Aid strong and close by!
    (33 votes)
  • 24%
    50/50 - But changes in coach and/or player personnel has to happen.
    (259 votes)
  • 68%
    Zero - I’m angry and this team looks no different than last year.
    (722 votes)
  • 1%
    "Shasta"
    (20 votes)
  • 1%
    "SaguaroBronco" (disagree with the premise of this question!)
    (20 votes)
1054 votes total Vote Now