If there’s one thing that’s going to prevent Denver from making a valiant effort at turning this two-loss streak around, it’s going to be arrogance.
That sounds funny coming the day after what felt like a blowout loss for this team despite a fourth-quarter resurgence with a final drive that could have sent the game into overtime.
The arrogance won’t show up in bragging. No way that’s happening after yesterday.
It’ll come in the form of denial and selective ignorance about weaknesses in their performance.
The Broncos first long term problem is themselves. https://t.co/ixxTg64lqE— Brandon Quinn (@TheBrandonQuinn) October 11, 2021
Exhibit A - Alexander Johnson on the defense
Inside linebacker Alexander Johnson was asked about how the defense could improve heading into next week’s game against the Raiders.
“What can we improve? I feel like we did pretty good. They just outplayed us for the most part,” he said. “We played a solid game; they just played a little better.”
No, the Steelers played a lot better for most of the game and the Broncos played a solid game for only a fraction of it.
I can appreciate that many - even all - of the Broncos were out there giving their all and making - or trying to make - plays.
But this loss wasn’t just because the Steelers played a little better than the Broncos.
It was because the Broncos played a lot worse than they are capable.
When a single running back gashes a defense that’s supposed to be top five for a buck 27 (and the entire offense runs a total of 147 yards on them), that’s not an offense playing “just a little better.”
And it should motivate a defense to fix some big issues - whether it’s technique or communication or just some football IQ on coverage.
That wasn’t exactly what Johnson got out of the stats.
Somehow Alexander Johnson didn't see anything for the #Broncos D to improve from Sunday.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) October 11, 2021
"They just played better."
Well, that's one way to put it.
Another way is Denver gave up 147 rushing yards to a team that has previously averaged 55/game. https://t.co/AjiOnXXCuO
Exhibit B: Vic Fangio on the offensive play caller
I’m not one to complain about coaching every time the team loses. These are professional players who know the game and know the expectation. When it comes to “playing faster from the get-go” or knowing what to expect from the opponent, a lot of that is on the player and his prep to do his job.
However, when one side of the ball is continually a problem - especially for lack of creativity with the skillset of the players on the team - that is most definitely a coaching issue.
Three targets to Moore and Hinton, none to the tight ends so far. WTF are they doing? https://t.co/zETrBIdIRz— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) October 10, 2021
“We all just have to do a better job. We have to do a better job of coaching these players, and we have to do a better job of playing,” he said on a question about Shurmur. “We’re all in it together. I have no qualms with Pat other than our results haven’t been good enough. We have to find a way to fix that.”
I don’t expect Fangio to throw his coordinators under the bus in a presser, so it’s a little unfair to use those quotes against him. But given that Tom McMahon still has a job and Pat Shurmur doesn’t seem to be getting that his play calling might be part of the issue, I don’t know that the head coach is seeing the origin of some of the bigger problems on offense.
I’m no football scheme guru, but I don’t think it’s always just “better execution” from players or just about “not abandoning the run game” each week.
It’s also about using players and schemes in the right way, such as utilizing the run game at the best times in the drive and doing so with play calls that make sense (for instance, actually calling on Javonte Williams when it’s 3rd-and-goal but maybe not when it’s 3rd-and-15).
Javonte on the goal line. It's not hard.— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) October 10, 2021
Exhibit C: Von Miller & Justin Simmons taking charge
I actually don’t think the leaders on the team will allow an arrogance to exist that misses the mistakes needed to be corrected.
Case(s) in point - Von Miller and Justin Simmons.
Miller, who got burned by Chase Claypool while dropping into coverage as the defense played zone, claimed he had to do more. Not just on that play but on every play to make it easier for the rest of the defense to get the stop, make the play, etc.
“We’ve just got to find a way to do more. I have to find a way to do more. [There were] couple of instances where I could have helped the secondary more and I could have helped [CB] Kyle [Fuller] out, but I wasn’t able to get there. I can get there in under 2.2 (seconds). I just have to find ways to do it.”
Likewise, Justin Simmons acknowledged it’s an everybody issue, not a single player having a bad game issue
“We’ve got to be able to play just better football [from] the top down. It’s not just on Kyle [Fuller], and it’s not just on, whoever they called the penalty on during the field goal [Dre’Mont Jones]. It’s never just one guy,” he said. “From a leadership standpoint, I take a lot of responsibility. I’ve got to be able to find ways to make things easier as a unit on defense and get us going.”
Also, Simmons seems intent on helping his teammates figure out what they need to do individually and collectively to prevent a total skid.
“We had that takeaway earlier which is great, but [it’s about] finding ways to manifest those things and get that thing going,” Simmons said. “If that means higher energy, then that’s what it takes. If that means more communication throughout the week, then that’s what it’s going to take.”
I’m not a “fire Coach X midseason” kind of fan (unless it’s Josh McDaniels). I don’t really think that helps in the short term and doesn’t make that big of a difference in the long term.
But I am most definitely a “look in the mirror and figure out what I/we did wrong immediately” kind of fan. There is too much talent on the team to look the way it did for 50 minutes on Sunday.
And it’s on the coaches but also the players.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh were always going to be formidable opponents. And even with Pittsburgh’s recent struggles, there shouldn’t have been a single player who thought Big Ben would be easy to get to or Najee Harris would be easy to stop or the Pittsburgh defense wasn’t going to be stuffing the run.
Not coming out ready to attack on defense and offense was just inexcusable.
So even if the Broncos were going to lose, they should have lost because Pittsburgh outplayed two teams playing their best.
That didn’t happen. Pittsburgh played with the urgency a 1-3 team needs. Denver played with the arrogance a 3-1 team should never have in the NFL.