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Broncos offense must be better on first down

The explosive plays are there for Russell Wilson and Denver. The problem comes on first down. That has to change.

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

A theme has emerged through the first five games.

The Denver Broncos take a step forward, followed by five backward.

To put out another metaphor, the Broncos hit the target and then shoot themselves in the foot. Through five games, Denver is out of toes and a foot.

That obviously has to stop for the Broncos to have a shot on Monday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.

“That’s been the thing that we have been looking at over and over and over again because we want to be aggressive,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said to the media on Thursday. “We love the explosive plays and they have been great, but our feast and famine has really hurt us. It sets us back. We get big chunks, and then once you get a big chunk, you end up setting yourself back for certain reasons. And again, that’s not necessarily one person. It’s a combination of everybody together, and I think it’s those guys just playing together.

“I think that for us, we’re just going to continue to coach the fundamentals and the basics and just capitalize on the simple things and not feel like we have to do something more or overthink things. I think as these guys continually work together and play together, I think it’s going to get better and we’re going to be able to limit those things. Right now, first-down efficiency is what is really killing us.”

The best way for Denver’s offense to set itself up for success is by having positive plays on first down.

That means stop being predictable with the play calls. Whether it’s Hackett calling running plays or targeting tight ends who shouldn’t be targeted, the rhythm on offense starts with the play calling. And Hackett has to be better in that regard.

In the same refrain, the execution on first and second down has to be better, too. Stop committing stupid penalties. Stop dropping the ball. Stop missing reads. Stop turning the ball over.

If Russell Wilson and the Broncos can consistently get into third-and-short situations, the offense will have more success on Monday.

“You make a great point,” Wilson said. “We’ve been Top-5 in explosive plays and just making great plays, but also, too, we’ve had a lot of negative plays on first and second down. We have to be great in first and second down. We’ve been great on third down — third-and-short, third-and-two-to-three, four-to-six. Everything else, we’ve been not very good.

“I think that we’ve come up key in clutch (moments). Obviously, in the 49ers game on third-and-long, we came up with a big play. It can definitely happen, but you’re putting yourself in a better situation more times than not.”

As Wilson said, the explosive plays are there.

The key is to stop shooting themselves in the foot on first down.

At this point, they’ll be out of feet if this doesn’t stop on Monday.