Similarly, the Broncos opened up with a commanding 21-3 lead over the Washington Commanders this week only to fall apart in a 35-33 loss.
Finishing and capitalizing on momentum is a big problem with this team, and as a result, they are looking at 0-2 to start the season.
“Really [it was] a tale of two games,” head coach Sean Payton said after the game, “The first, call it quarter and a half, we played things kind of like we wanted to, relative to being on schedule. The number one key in this game with this team, and we looked at it—every one of their losses—every one of their games last year where they didn’t have a takeaway, they lost the game. We give them the ball at midfield, and that momentum shifts at that point with the fumble.”
Things certainly shifted in the second half, as the team couldn’t put pressure on Commanders QB Sam Howell and had trouble getting off the field.
“I didn’t think we played well defensively,” Payton said. “[In the] second half, I think they were 100 percent—every time they entered the red zone they scored a touchdown. Offensively, we were slow with our communication. That was frustrating. That has to start with us, with me. We never got the momentum back. It was disappointing.”
One thing that started to plague the team was getting the plays executed on time, something Payton said clogged any attempt at getting back momentum once the Commanders started hitting back.
“There were a number of drives where we were late with personnel, getting out of the huddle we took a while,” Payton said. “That has to change. We had to burn timeouts in the first half, and I’m not used to doing [that]. We have to be better. I have to be better. ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson) has to be sharper with getting the play out, and then we have to look at how much we have in. If we need to wristband it, we will.”
It was certainly a shift in narratives in contrast to last season, as where the defense seemed to have to bail out the offense at every turn, it was more of the opposite during this game. The offense appeared crisp and efficient early on, but the defense fell apart quickly in the second quarter and beyond, allowing for a relatively uncontested comeback.
“I thought we were poor [defensively],” Payton said. “We didn’t help them with the field position, with the turnover, but our red-zone defense was poor. First-down defense—we’re not fitting certain pressures. We have to look at how much do we have in, defensively, same way. I didn’t think we played well, and we’re going to see a lot better offenses than that. I think in the second half, I didn’t like the rushing numbers that I thought we played well with in the first half, if that makes sense.”
Overall, the game seemed to be a testament to recent Broncos history in regards to grinding out tough games. Momentum losses have been a symptom of the Broncos losses in recent years and have yet to be fixed.
“The biggest thing is making sure that we stay on schedule, and making sure that I play cleaner,” QB Russell Wilson said in regards to that. “[I] can’t turn the ball over...we want to keep the drives going. We have to stay on schedule and continue to get first downs in certain situations, especially coming out of the halves—the end of halves. Those are really big scoring moments for us. We need to capitalize on those...We have play cleaner there and I have to be better.”
The Broncos now fall to 0-2 on the season as they now await a red-hot Miami Dolphins team on the road next week.