It’s been a long nine days of hand-wringing over this 2-3 Broncos’ team that’s lost two bad games in a row, is riddled with injured starters and still has the hardest part of its schedule to come.
But…it’s a new football week and that means there is time for optimism.
Can the #Broncos beat the #Chargers?— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) October 15, 2022
But will they?
It means a banged-up Denver D stopping one of the NFL's best offenses, and a Denver offense scoring multiple TDs to keep up.
That hasn't been its M.O. unfortunately https://t.co/hzTcsqilEv
The 3-2 Chargers seem to be hitting their stride as the offense finds balance between its running and passing game, and the defense - despite giving up a lot of points - is showing it can still throttle the opponent just enough to hold onto a lead.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have just two starters left on the offensive line and at this point may never see Billy Turner take the field. They are minus a starting running back and have a bunch of highly paid wide receivers dropping the ball. But that’s not nearly as problematic as the very highly paid quarterback unable to see them.
On the defensive side where the Broncos have flashed brilliance, injuries to Randy Gregory, Ronald Darby and Josey Jewell could spell trouble as they face one of the best QBs in the league and a running back who is finally finding his legs.
For coach Nathaniel Hackett, this all just means a must-win game.
“For us, we are 0-1 right now in the West. The past is the past right now. We have to find a way to win a football game,” he said. “It happens to be a West opponent which makes it more exciting because it’s a rivalry. It’s a very good football team. We have to get out there and we have to get after it.”
Prior to the Thursday Night Football game against the Colts, Hackett talked a lot about avoiding negative plays - something his team didn’t do in the loss to the Colts.
So that advice is still on the table.
“We want to be aggressive. We love the explosive plays and they have been great, but our feast and famine has really hurt us,” Hackett said earlier this week. “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. ...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.”
Ironically, the Broncos have been one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL but have also had among the worst red zone performances.
Wilson is hoping to fix that for Monday night.
“We have to be great in first and second down, that’s what it sums up to and it gives us a better chance on third down. We’ve been great on third down—third-and-short, third-and-two-to-three, four-to-six,” Wilson said. “Everything else, we’ve been not very good.
In spite of a lot of criticism from the Colts game, Wilson said he expects adversity and isn’t deterred by it.
In fact, he invites the challenge of working through it.
“Adversity is going to come. ...How we handle it, how we deal with it ...we can either run from it or run to it and just keep going,” he said. “Adversity builds you. It builds character, it builds perseverance, it builds all of that greatness and all of that tough stuff that people don’t necessarily want to go through. I’m willing to go through it. I’m looking forward to the obstacles, I’m looking forward to coming on the other end of it.”
Wilson has posted career-worst marks — completing just 59% of his passes so far this season. But he remains undaunted by the obstacles and insists he is not motivated by criticism but rather by his competitive nature to win.
“I think that your commitment individually as a competitor and everything else is, to me, has always been focusing on the process,” Wilson added. “The end result happens, and you just need to stay focused on that. Throughout the challenges, throughout the great times and throughout the tough times, you stay consistent.”
Ultimately, it comes down to just playing football better.
With Khalil Mack and Co. aiming to bulldoze through the backup O-line and Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr. just waiting to take away the deep threat or stack the box, Hackett and Wilson need to draw up quick plays that get the ball out fast and downfield.
“I think if we can give ourselves a better chance to be successful, the better we will be,” Wilson said. “That’s what we’re focused on. What are those few plays a game? What are those four or five plays a game and how can we make those positive plays and not negative plays? Then when it comes to the red zone, it comes down to making plays. We have to make them.”
Prediction for Monday Night Football?
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Russell Wilson pulls a "Peyton Manning-like comeback against the Chargers" for a late-game surge to win.
Game is over by halftime...and there is no heroic comeback for the Broncos.
The ManningCast is the most entertaining part of the game.