The Denver Broncos began the 2023 season losing a couple of close games by a combined total of three points and then it seemed like the wheels came completely off as they spiraled to a 1-4 start. It looked pretty bleak heading into that Thursday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but things began looking a lot different in that game. The defense was beginning to show up and they continued to show up on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Head Coach Sean Payton was obviously relieved to get that first home win of the season, but he continued to have bigger plans in mind heading into the middle part of the regular season.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Payton said after the game. “Hopefully there are a lot better milestones than that. I look more at this as—we talked all week. This is a tough league and it’s close. There’s a really fine line in winning and losing. You saw today. We have to start stringing together these opportunities. With respect to the question, I hope there are bigger accomplishments than that.”
Winning close games is something Denver hasn’t been able to do much of in recent years, but they’ve done it in both their wins this season. The first one needed a furious offensive comeback and the other needed the defense needed to stave off a comeback by the other team. They lost their first two games by a combined three total points, so in a way this team is just a hair away from being 4-3 and having a completely different narrative surrounding them.
Instead, they are 2-5 and must beat the 6-1 Kansas City Chiefs at home next week to save their season. If they fall to 2-6, then there is clearly no path forward that doesn’t end in missing the playoffs. While 3-5 isn’t that much better, but there is a possibility there if they got on a little win streak.
Even with the win on Sunday, there was plenty of frustration during the game. The offense stumbled in the red zone. Out of five scoring drives, four of those ended in a field goal.
“Look, we’re never happy,” Payton reflected. “We work hard, we want to see our guys play well. I’m happy we won. I am. I think I was a little happier before I came in here. There are some things that, from experience, you know need to get fixed or they will cost you—or have already cost us. Those are the things that keep you up at night. We have to keep working on them. This was a good, hard-fought win.”
A good, hard-fought win it was. Fans today love the exciting shootout style games, but there is a lot of team character that can be built out of the tough slogging defensive games that lean on the run and kicking games to secure victory. This win was one of my favorites over the last two years simple because it required the team to come together in all three phases to squeeze out the victory.
Now they just need to beat the Chiefs. This franchise will never turn the corner if they can’t overcome their division rivals at home.