DENVER (AP)The Denver Broncos have a short week to fix a long list of ailments.
The Broncos (1-4) didn’t have much time to decipher all that went wrong in their 31-21 loss to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the New York Jets on Sunday because they have a short turnaround before a Thursday night game at Kansas City.
The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs have won four straight after losing to Detroit at home to open the season, and they haven’t lost to the Broncos since 2015.
It doesn’t look like the Broncos are anywhere near primed to end their 15-game skid against their AFC West rival. They are set to face the Chiefs twice in an 18-day span sandwiched around a home game against Green Bay.
Too many things need their attention for the Broncos to harp on their long losing streak to the Chiefs.
“I think our focus has to start internally in a short week here, getting ourselves both physically and mentally ready to play a really good football team on the road in a tough environment,” coach Sean Payton said Monday. “The past 15 (games), I don’t know that that’s a big topic right now for us. I think, for us, it’s more about us.”
The Broncos were hoping a soft early schedule would jump-start them in Payton’s first season, but instead they’ve lost at home to the underdog Raiders, Commanders and Jets.
That trio of teams is a combined 2-9 against opponents other than the Broncos.
The Chiefs have been winning despite being less than their stellar selves of late, squeaking past the Jets and Vikings the last two weeks.
“They do a lot of things well. Quite honestly, they’ve found ways to win even when it hasn’t gone as well as they would have hoped, and that’s the sign of a really good football team – a championship team,” Payton said before lauding KC’s offense, defense and special teams.
“Those are the things that, when you really look at it, a championship team has,” Payton said, “and they’re playing well in all three areas.”
Conversely, his Broncos aren’t playing well in any of those areas.
Denver’s defense was gashed again on the ground Sunday and failed to force Jets quarterback Zach Wilson to beat them through the air. Returner Marvin Mims Jr. muffed another punt and the Broncos followed up a decent first half offensively with a five-drive stretch to start the second half in which they netted minus-18 yards.
Finally, Russell Wilson fumbled away the ball in the final minute while trying to get the Broncos in field-goal range to force overtime.
It appeared on TV that Payton was hollering at his quarterback as he retreated to the sideline, but Payton said Monday that wasn’t really the case.
“I don’t think I was that animated,” Payton said, noting that his every interaction with Wilson is broadcast and dissected. “I just wanted to make sure he knew the linebacker was a free rusher, so it wasn’t as big of an exchange or big deal I think maybe as some may have thought.”
Outside linebacker Nick Bonitto had his second straight dominant performance with two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. In two starts he has 4 1/2 sacks, four TFLs and four QBHs.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Stopping the run. The only Denver defender to get a hand on Breece Hall on his 72-yard touchdown run up the middle was safety Kareem Jackson, who barely swiped Hall’s shoulder as he sped past him.
Rookie RB Jaleel McLaughlin carried nine times for 68 yards for a 7.6-yard average while starting in place of the injured Javonte Williams. He also caught three passes for 22 yards and turned one of them into a nifty 21-yard touchdown.
WR Courtland Sutton. He wasn’t a big part of the game plan and by the fourth quarter was jogging through some of his routes. Sutton was targeted three times and caught one pass for 13 yards. Yet he once again led Broncos receivers with 54 snaps (tied with Jerry Jeudy) while Brandon Johnson got 32 and Marvin Mims Jr. 20.
NT D.J. Jones injured a knee Sunday and didn’t return in the second half.
246 – Yards on 10 catches by Mims.
229 – Yards on 21 receptions by Sutton.
208 – Yards on 17 catches by Jeudy.
The Broncos had better figure out how to run the ball and how to stop the run or their upcoming stretch will be even more brutal than it looks. After their second game against Kansas City, they get a bye before traveling to Buffalo, so 1-4 could quickly become 1-8.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl