Sunday after the game, head coach Sean Payton was brief. And curt.
“Obviously, that was embarrassing and tough to watch. Aside from the kick return, there weren’t a lot of positives to take from that game.”
Monday after watching the tape, the coach had a little more to say and was slightly more contrite.
He highlighted the critical points where the team had costly setbacks that could have helped change the trajectory of the game if played better, namely turnovers and penalties.
“Right at that critical juncture of the game [defense getting a 4th down stop], we ended up scoring three, and they still ended up scoring 14 more points,” Payton said Monday. “The three offensive turnovers all led to touchdowns, that’s 21 points. Typically speaking, when you see a score that high, you know the one thing that had to exist was turnovers. All three of them led to points for Miami.”
Yet the offense was still the better of the two sides of the ball as the defense allowed, well, you remember...almost an NFL record in points scored.
Payton pointed to the defense’s failure to set the edge as the primary culprit.
“They got to the edge early on and often with their toss series and their outside crack series. We struggled taking away some of the things we knew he liked to throw, which was the interior portions of the field,” Payton said. “Offensively, we had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. Those are all things that when you look at the tape jump out at you.”
Another thing that stood out - at least to all the poor fans watching Broncos defenders get decimated one by one across the field over and over again - was the poor tackling.
In fact, the Broncos defense missed 24 tackles. Absurd.
Broncos missed tackles by game, per Pro Football Focus:— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 25, 2023
Week 1: 8
Week 2: 11
Week 3: TWENTY-FOUR
“Twenty, twenty, twenty-four hours to go, I wanna be sedated”
Payton said the reason behind those kinds of numbers is mainly a byproduct of leverage and speed.
“When you’re a half-step behind, the last thing you’re thinking about is stripping the ball carrier. You’re thinking about just getting them down. It felt like with each run,” Payton said, noting it felt that way yesterday and looked that way on the tape today. “When you’re a half-step or a half-gap behind, you’re going to be more arms and not in control. Your balance—you’re not in a position to tackle properly.”
Aside from learning where the technique breakdowns were and trying to correct them, the Broncos are in serious need of some leaders to pull guys up and turn things around.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror, myself included,” said Kareem Jackson. “Obviously we all have to buy in, we all have to be on the same page. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get all 11 guys on the same page — right now, we’re not. The only thing we can do is evaluate the film, and we’ve got to have a great week of practice. We have to if we want get this thing going in the right direction, because right now, defensively, we’re a bad unit. And I’m a part of that. We’ve got to execute. From the top guy to the last guy. Point blank, period.”
The coach believes handling this kind of bad start takes grit and toughness - and not just three hours on game day.
“When you take a butt whooping like that, you find out a lot about everyone,” he said. “It’s a tough film to watch.”
Miami is clearly one of the best teams in the entire league right now, but the Broncos will have no shortage of “among the best in the league” opponents. Between the Chiefs, Bills, Chargers and Packers, the Broncos have to learn from their mistakes quickly and avoid a domino effect of loss after loss after loss.
“You lose that game, and you lose it. It’s worth a loss. Now, you have to pay attention to how poor it was,” he said. “You can’t ignore that or gloss over that. Then you go from there. We’ll pick ourselves up here this week and get ready to play next weekend.”
It might be good the Broncos have another road game to give fans a little time to forget how embarrassing a 70-20 loss would feel at home. But Payton seemed to understand the gravity of the loss beyond players and coaches feeling bad.
Greg Penner and Co. are surely not going to let their $5 billion investment continue to look worse than a bad PeeWee football game.
So the coach made a promise to the fans.
“First off to the fans, we’re going to work our tail off and get this ship straightened away. That’s going to happen,” he said. “Certainly, there’s a lot of work ahead of us. The key is finding these guys, putting them in the right positions to be successful, and then that confidence that comes with winning. That’s the main thing.”