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Sean Payton: Problems scoring belong to entire offense, coaches - not just QB

Speaking on Monday, head coach Sean Payton said the struggle to throw the ball against KC was a problem and admitted it’s a challenge getting the ball to all the playmakers.

The Denver Broncos take on the Washington Commanders during week 2 of the 2023 NFL season. Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Among the many frustrating things about the Denver Broncos’ 19-8 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday was the offense’s inability to complete passes.

After the game Sean Payton had said he was “disappointed but not discouraged” and the defense’s success against the Chiefs - especially in the red zone - was a big reason.

But the flip side - the red zone offense - was a non-starter.

“I thought they played hard. Defensively, particularly, we did a great job. Our red-zone defense was outstanding,” Payton said. “Obviously, offensively we struggled throwing the ball. Our red-zone numbers were poor. The turnovers — against a team like this, it’s going to be tough to win. And yet, we were still in it going into the fourth quarter.”

Of their 10 drives total, the Broncos offense made it to the red zone just once the entire game and into Chiefs’ territory only three times.

The lone red zone trip was also the Broncos’ single touchdown - so at least they made the most of it. But the two others ended in an interception and a turnover on downs. Three of

Denver’s other seven drives yielded five punts, another interception and a fumble that killed the final attempt to get to the end zone. Three of the failed drives started behind Denver’s 10 yard line.

So what’s the answer...Better plays called? Better o-line protection? Better QB vision? Better receiver separation?

All of the above, no doubt. But Payton made sure to emphasize his comments on fixing the offense were not directed at one player (aka, Russell Wilson).

“It’s been a handful [of things]. It’s hard to point to one specifically. You want to have confidence in the pocket, and we need to find ways to get guys open. Typically speaking, that has to happen efficiently on early downs. It can’t be just on third down,” Payton said. “Obviously on first down, you’re going to mix run or pass with your sequencing.”

Payton added that the immediate feeling after the KC game was simply that the Broncos have got “to be able to throw it better” to win in the NFL.

“That wasn’t directed at any one player,” Payton added. “That was directed at all of us on offense.”

One issue there has been finding enough plays to get a host of good receivers the ball. Between Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Marvin Mims. Brandon Johnson and even the running backs, there’s not enough.

“We’re faced with a challenge sometimes of trying to find that balance with Sutton, Jeudy, Mims and the guys that we feel like can make plays in space,” Payton said, adding that Mims is doing well as he gets better each game. “He’s on track, and we’re confident in how he’s handling the return duties but also his ability to make plays for us in the passing game. [We’re] trying to find that balance.”

Payton called finding the balance a “work in progress.” especially as they figure out how to use both Mims and Jeudy.

“We’ve had packages where both are on the field at the same time opposite of one another,” Payton said, adding that it’s not a work in progress for Mims as much as the coaches finding packages and touches for him both in the passing game. “He is really good with the ball in his hands.”

Payton also admitted that he empathizes with Jeudy’s likely frustration at not getting the ball more. And the head coach also essentially ignored questions about whether the team might trade Jeudy before the deadline in two weeks.

“He’s frustrated, I’m sure. He’s a talented player. We need to continue to look for ways to get him throws—not only in the slot, but outside,” Payton said. “He is very competitive, he’s smart and he’s a playmaker for us. We have to continue to look for ways to put him in positions to make plays.”

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