If you’re still too angry about the Broncos’ loss in Kansas City on Sunday to see the big picture, Steve Atwater has some words for you.
“I don’t feel as good (as last week), but I’m definitely not in the tank,” he told Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright of Broncos Country Tonight. “I’m not one of those people who feels everything is lost because we had a bad game.”
But Atwater is not letting anyone off the hook, either.
“I definitely would have liked to see the defense play better. Too many passes to Travis Kelce where it seemed like he wasn’t covered, and I’m not sure that’s how the defense was supposed to work,” Atwater laughed. “I would have liked to see better protection for the quarterback, liked to see them do better in the run game, although Phillip Lindsay had a couple of nice runs. Overall not a great game, but it’s back to the drawing board.”
Poor protection, poor throwing, poor catching and poor coverage from the Chiefs’ game are things he expects to see improve the next two games - particularly as the Broncos will not be facing Super Bowl contenders in the Lions and Raiders.
And like Courtland Sutton noted after the game, this Chiefs’ game is definitely not a “burn-the-tape” game.
“No. This is going to come up again. You want to build off those bad experiences and come back and buckle down and make the most of those,” Atwater said. “We need to see what we can do differently, see how we can throw better in these conditions, how we can block better, how the guys can catch the ball better in these conditions. It’s a learning experience for everyone.”
Courtland Sutton asked postgame if best to turn page on Chiefs loss: "No. I hate the Chiefs. I don't realy care, I do not like them. Playing against them and losing to them is really, really frustrating. Very, very frustrating." More #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) December 16, 2019
And when it came to the question of whether Drew Lock’s performance should be a red flag or signal a bump in the road, Atwater had no doubt.
“I really think it’s a bump in the road,” he said. “We know he’s not going to automatically be the best quarterback in the league. I think he has potential to be that, but it’s a process.”
After all, it has been a process for a few other franchise QBs - including the Broncos’ GM.
“It was a process for Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, even for John Elway,” Atwater added. “All the great quarterbacks didn’t just jump in and have success. I’m still excited for the future and the potential.”
The key, Atwater says, is to keep seeing Lock in more situations. Will he be the Drew Lock of the Chargers, the Texans or the Chiefs? Atwater believes his future is more like his performance in Houston.
Moving forward, the Ring-of-Fame safety would like to see Lock and the rest of the offense show the ability to put bad plays, bad quarters behind them and change the course of a game.
“What I want to see is if we have a bad first half, we put that behind us and can start anew in the third quarter and pick it up,” Atwater said. “That’s what good teams are able to do.”
Looking beyond this season, Atwater believes fortifying the defense is a must in free agency and the draft - even if it’s with backup players. The Broncos’ defense on Sunday played without multiple starters and in many cases was dipping into its fourth or fifth string. That is not a sustainable formula for winning.
“This offseason an emphasis will be a deep roster,” the Smilin Assassin said, noting that the Broncos should go after some free agent defenders who didn’t have a spectacular year and can command a lot of money but are good enough to fill a strong backup role so the defense doesn’t miss a beat. “Guys have to be able to jump in there and hold it down when the starters are hurt.”
After Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, there was speculation that Von Miller may not want to be one of those starters next year based on his post-game comments:
“Tough loss. It’s hard because I really don’t even know what to say. I don’t know how we got to this point. I don’t know how we win like this, I really don’t. It’s tough being where we’re at....We went to the playoffs for five years straight. I’m getting ahead of myself and talking about more than just the game, but it’s tough. I’m at a loss for words....We’ve tried everything. We’ve tried everything on and off the football field. We’ve tried all different coaches, all different players. I really don’t know what’s going on....I’m just at a loss for words.”
Atwater believes those statements were just Miller’s complete frustration with losing despite trying so hard to win. But based on Miller’s actions all year, he doesn’t believe No. 58 is looking to go elsewhere.
“I don’t believe it; I don’t buy it,” Atwater said, noting how much support the edge rusher has given to the young guys coming up as well as the entire league. “I do feel his frustration. He’s 30 years old, and he wants to see that improvement. He wants to be on Monday Night Football playing for something and not get to week 13 or 14 and be out of it already.”
The antidote to this frustration, Atwater said, will be winning. And he fully expects the Broncos to put on a good offensive and defensive show against Detroit on Sunday - even if they’re playing against former Broncos’ backup quarterback Kyle Sloter, who may get the nod to start for the Lions.
And just because Sloter was a fan favorite, Atwater doesn’t want to see the Broncos going easy on him.
“I don’t want to see him come in here and have a good game,” he said. “I want to see Denver get five interceptions. We need to get a win.”