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Performance this terrible should not have been the story by Week 7 for the Broncos

But it was. So Broncos have a short week to get back to what they should be given the talent they have.

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Raiders’ Maxx Crosby was saying what the Broncos should have been saying Sunday after the game.

“We needed it. At the end of the day, it’s a crazy league,” said Crosby, who got three sacks on Teddy Bridgewater and basically made life miserable for the Broncos’ offensive line on Sunday afternoon. “You can feel like you’ve solved the world’s problems and you feel great when you’re winning, but then all of a sudden you lose and then you just got to stay…you got to stay locked in no matter what and you just see this group.”

But that should have been coming from Von Miller or Teddy Bridgewater or Vic Fangio.

They were the team that should have been putting an end to the losing streak, getting things back on track and “staying locked in.”

After all, they were playing a Jon Gruden-less Raiders team at home and should have been fired up to end a two-game losing streak and beat an AFC West rival they knew was going to rally.

But what should have happened did not.

Instead, head coach Vic Fangio and players had to stand before the media promising to turn things around.

Again.

“I’m going to open with—this was a tough game. Simply put, we got our butts whooped,” said safety Justin Simmons, who had just one solo tackle and two combined for his Sunday stat sheet. “I know there are going to be questions about the secondary—obviously, I’m up here. We have to play better. I definitely have to play better. I’m going to get this figured out.”

But on a short week where the Broncos will get two days of “practice” before the Thursday Night Football prime time game at Cleveland, the figuring out will have to be done in the meeting room.

“Practices this week will be very, very low tempo,” said Fangio. “We won’t be sweating on the practice field, so we’ve got to really strain our brains and learn in the meeting rooms because we’re not going to be able to really strain and practice on the practice field to break a sweat. It has to be done in the meeting rooms and it’s got to be done at home watching the extra tape. That’s the way it has to be this week.”

Although the Broncos dominated time of possession against the Raiders - 34:33 minutes for Denver compared to 25:27 for Las Vegas - that time was not well spent as they missed connections on too many big offensive plays and gave up too many big plays on defense.

“I think it came down to the deep balls on both sides of the ball,” Fangio said, building on his comment from the day before that the Broncos just “got beat” despite chances. “It’s kind of been the tale here of late. We’ve given up way too many big plays ... We just didn’t play them well enough....We’re not coaching them well enough, then.”

For Simmons and his teammates, not having a lot of time to think about how they got beat up and down the field on both sides of the ball is a welcomed side effect.

“It’s always great to have a quick turnaround … After a win, you have to move on, and after a loss, you have to move on,” Simmons said. “Guys aren’t going to have their heads down at all. You take it how it is. We came in today ready to play, and we got beat. We didn’t make nearly enough plays in the backend and we’ll be better. We have to be better. That’s what it comes down to.”

But as Noah Fant noted, this group needs to spend some time thinking about that loss and figuring out what the breakdown is because there is too much talent to look that pathetic on the field.

“In [these] 96 hours, we’ve got a lot to figure out,” said Fant, who was the top receiving target for the Broncos with 97 yards and a touchdown. “We’ve got a lot to look back on to figure out how we can improve, and then try to implement that on the Browns. It’s a double-edged sword, but this is the position we’re in.”

Miller told his teammates it starts with personal accountability.

And that’s not a choice, that’s an assignment.

“There are no choices. Choice is an illusion. We know exactly what we have to do to get it done,” he said, adding that everyone in the locker room knows what the team needs to do to win, so they need to do it. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job. I slipped. We started off winning and I’ve got to double down. I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to find a way to make a play.”

Miller, who contributed a measly two tackles and one of just four hits on Derek Carr, admitted he has to find a way to get pressure on the QB - especially one behind a weak offensive line.

“I’ve got to find a way to pressure the quarterback. I’ve got to do what I do best. I have to focus on me. That’s all I know how to do,” he said, keeping it simple. “If I can do that it’ll just trickle downhill. Our defense will be able to get more picks, more turnovers, and a shorter field for our offense. It all starts with me and I’m completely comfortable with that. I can do it. I’m going to get it done.”

Although Fangio still expressed confidence in the Broncos’ offensive line, the line protected like a sieve, allowing five sacks and 17 QB hits. SEVENTEEN.

“Our protection yesterday was inconsistent,” said Fangio, adding that part of the numbers come from playing behind and having to pass more often. “Eventually guys can get beat, and they did. I think we can protect better as a whole, and that involves not just the O-line, that involves the tight ends, that involves getting the ball out, etcetera, everything.”

Lloyd Cushenberry didn’t have a solution for it but said the line definitely takes the poor play personally.

“That’s on us, that’s our job. That’s why we’re here—to protect [Bridgewater] or whoever is back there,” he said. “When he gets hit that many times, there’s obviously something wrong and we need to fix some things fast.”

Bridgewater acknowledged that he “probably held on to the ball too long” at times, but he’s going through his progressions and trying to find the right guy. As noted by MHR’s Joe Mahoney, Bridgewater is having to make most throws on 3rd-and-long (an average of 8.3 yards needed to gain on third downs), which is not a great formula for quick passing decisions.

“I’m just trying to exhaust my progression, try to give us a chance, try to give our guys a chance down field to win on certain routes,” he said, adding he’ll watch the tape and see how to improve that. “I just learn from today, man, try to put this one behind me and not let it happen again.”

Bridgewater, however, believes the locker room is together in its commitment to each other and changing the current trajectory.

“Honestly, the mood in the locker room is a group of men who are together. It’s so easy in this league for guys to distance and huddle up in little clicks and point the finger at different people, but you don’t see it here,” he said. “You see a group of men who have come together and they understand how the season can go. There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs, and you just got to stay together through it all....We stay together, we keep executing, keep trying to find ways to get better and we’ll chase this and move this thing into the right direction.”

And Fangio believes he still has the confidence of his players.

“I do,” he said. “I just think we have the right kind of guys that will rally. I think we have good leadership. I think there’s a high care factor. I have confidence in the guys.”

Although fans are losing confidence, Bridgewater urged Broncos Country not to give up believing in the team.

“When you win, you’re the best player in the world. When you lose, you got to hear how bad you are. At the end of the day, we just appreciate their support,” Bridgewater said. “Listen to them today on third downs or when guys were scoring touchdowns, they were all in. We felt their energy.

“At the end of the day, I just pray that they keep supporting us, keep believing in us, credit guys, understand how this thing works,” the QB added. “We just focus on what is really important to us, the things we can control - how hard we work every day, the mindset that we have when we step into that facility and just trying to find ways to help this team win.”

It should not have been this way already at Week 7. But it is.