DENVER — The three straight wins the Denver Broncos had to start the season are starting to look more and more like fool’s gold.
Sunday’s 34-24 home loss to the Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High dropped the Broncos back to .500 and had them looking for answers.
Coach Vic Fangio admitted his team’s belief in itself could be wavering after dropping games to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Raiders.
“I’m sure it’s shaken a little bit. It’s hard not to be,” he said of the team’s confidence headed into a Thursday game against Cleveland. “We have to rally back. The way you rally back is to have a good week of preparation—albeit a short week—and then go out and play well. There’s nothing that rallies you back and gets your confidence up like making some good plays and playing some good football. That’s what we have to do.”
It was just three weeks ago the Broncos believed they were headed for a big season after starting 3-0 with convincing wins over the Giants, Jaguars and Jets.
Now, it’s difficult to point to an area the Broncos can hang their hat on as they try to right the ship.
The offensive line is struggling, which was a major factor in normally efficient quarterback Teddy Bridgewater turning the ball over four times against the Raiders. The secondary, which had looked dominant early, is being ravaged by big plays, and the pass rush isn’t generating much pressure.
Fangio said the inequity in big plays was a major factor on Sunday.
“We didn’t play well enough, obviously,” he said. “I think it came down to the deep balls on both sides of the ball. We had our chances to make some, particularly in the first half, and then we didn’t. We came close. When they had their chances to make them, they made them. We’ll work hard to get that rectified.”
There’s not much time with a trip to Cleveland just three days away. Star edge defender Von Miller took it upon himself to speak to the team after the game, reminding them it’s time to get back to playing winning football.
“It’s pro ball,” he told reporters. “We won three games and everybody’s, ‘Yay, yay, yay!” We lose three games and everybody’s down. We can’t pay attention to that. … We know exactly what we have to do to get it done. … It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job. … I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to find a way to make a play.”
Miller said the fact they play on Thursday could be a blessing despite the ugly performance on Sunday.
“I feel like it’s easier this way,” he said. “Whenever I lose, I’ve always been the type of guy to say, ‘Let’s run it right back.’ … I want another shot at it super quick. There’s no better time to do it.”
While the level of competition could certainly be cited as a reason for the regression over the last several weeks, tight end Noah Fant said it’s more about what the Broncos are doing. They need to play a cleaner game regardless of the opposition.
“I think the biggest thing is we’ve just got to address the mistakes that we have happening,” Fant said. “It’s kind of a common saying—when you’re winning, you kind of overlook some things. Von said in the locker room. It’s time for everybody to look in the mirror and see exactly what we’re doing wrong. Not looking to anyone else. … It’s about looking at ourselves and farming our own land.”
Harvest season seems a long way off.