Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
It’s becoming too commonplace for this team to lose big.
Frustration is high in Broncos Country, and the Drew Lock Train is dumping passengers station after station.
But the quarterback, speaking to the media after Sunday’s rout by the Raiders, is still pushing on to the next stop as he must.
“I’m definitely frustrated after a day like that. There’s a lot of stuff I need to work on and a lot of stuff I can get better at,” he said. “So, we just have to keep pushing and practicing.”
Head coach Vic Fangio said “everyone’s footprints” were on that loss, but after a 4:1 ratio of interceptions to touchdowns, there’s perhaps a little more on the quarterback.
“Obviously it’s a concern,” Fangio said of the turnovers. “You can’t win turning the ball over that much. We’ve got to do a good job of evaluating why we’ve thrown these interceptions, what can we do to help him. Everybody’s fingerprint is on that performance – coaches, players – and we all have to take a good hard look at it, which we have been on a weekly basis, but we haven’t found the right formula yet to be consistent on offense.”
Coach, we’re here to help you out with a few variables – aside from the obvious four interceptions and two fumbles – to consider as you devise that formula:
Offense completed 7-of-15 third downs.
Ten of the Broncos’ third downs were “third-and-long”
More drives ended by turnovers (6) than punts (4)
Time of possession completely dropped off in the third quarter when the offense was on the field just a minute and a half.
Red zone efficiency was 0%.
“Unacceptable. Unacceptable,” said Dalton Risner of the team’s loss and the offense’s performance in particular. “That was an unacceptable performance today and we need to know that. It’s not that we’re going to dwell on that, but I don’t care what the reasoning is. …that was unacceptable from an offensive standpoint. And we need to be better. Plain and simple.”
If it were a simple solution, however, no doubt it would have happened already.
There are plenty of excuses related to injuries and a limited offseason that are valid, but when the quarterback is completing less than 50% of his passes, and the run game has a total yardage that is barely more than half the yards gained by the opponent’s top running back … well, there are more than simple issues to fix.
Drew Lock’s ESPN QBR today was 27.9. That ranks 23rd of 23 QBs measured to date this week.
vs. LAC: 44.4
at HOU: 98.7
at KC: 14.0
vs. DET: 54.0
vs. OAK: 37.9
vs. TEN: 62.0
at PIT: 4.3
at NE: 16.5
vs. KC: 17.0
vs. LAC: 60.6
at ATL: 48.6
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 16, 2020
But Lock believes he has made some strides since last season, and he’s not throwing in the towel on his ability to improve going forward.
“There’s a lot of areas I feel like I’m taking steps forward, but when you play in the NFL and you play quarterback, there’s a lot of areas that eventually pop up that probably weren’t talked about the week before or even the week before — there’s just a lot of stuff that goes into playing this position,” he said. “I have to keep learning and keep you balancing the good plays and the bad plays.”
The coach also believes there is proof of improvement in his QB, and this is just part of the growth process.
“We’ve got to do a good job of getting him dialed in and prepared a little better,” Fangio said. “There’s no question [Lock] has the talent to do a good job. He’s just going through the growing pains of being a young quarterback, and we’re going through the growing pains of getting him adjusted to the new offense.”
Lock, who could end up missing the Miami game because of the injury to his ribs, isn’t fretting over whether he’s running out of time to prove his potential as franchise QB.
“There’s always time, if you have the mindset, that’s good and that’s positive. Obviously, I have a very real mindset. I realize that it was not very good today and it hasn’t been very good the past couple of weeks, but it doesn’t get better if you dwell on it,” he said. “You can only keep moving forward and you keep looking into next week and keep coming out and playing — just keep pushing.”
Defensively the Broncos kept Derek Carr and the Raiders in check the first half. But they could only overcome so many turnovers and three-and-outs before the rails would come off. As they did in the third quarter when the defense was on the field for 13:28.
But the defense still showed ineptitude with the pass rush and the run D. Fangio noted that he rushed four to take away some of Carr’s edge in the passing game, but the Broncos weren’t stopping him on third down. And that gave Josh Jacobs a great opportunity to run 112 yards against the Broncos.
“They’re a good running team, obviously, and we just didn’t play the run well enough,” Fangio said. “Particularly if you lose your edge in a game, it’s going to show up in the run defense more so than anywhere else. I think in that fourth quarter we just weren’t as sharp as you need to be playing the run.”
Asked about the impact of not having Mike Purcell or Shelby Harris, Fangio noted the obvious – yes, of course, it’s harder, but the fact is that Broncos’ won’t have Purcell or Jurrell Casey the rest of the season and not Harris for another game, so the guys in there have to step up.
“There’s no doubt that Mike’s a very good player and we miss him, but he’s not coming back this year and we’re going to have to figure out a way to consistently play the run better,” he said. “I thought we at times yesterday played it pretty good but then in that fourth quarter we didn’t, obviously. …the guys we’ve got playing in there are capable, we’ve just got to play better.”
The Broncos have now allowed 30+ points in four consecutive games for the first time since surrendering 30+ in their final 6 games of the 1968 season (per @pfref).
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 16, 2020
Josey Jewell surmised that the defense “lost some energy.”
“I think it was just details. I talk about details all the time, but it really is,” he said. We’ve just got to be able to stay in our gaps and be able to keep that head of steam going. We can’t run out. I think it was maybe we lost some energy in there somewhere, and I think we didn’t do our jobs specifically on every single play like we did in the first half, which was nice.”
Jewell also noted the importance of consistency.
“We’ve seen it before, but also we know that with the guys we’ve got, we can be good. Like I keep on talking about, it’s execution and doing those small details, and being able to do them consistently,” he added. “We’ve had a couple great stops, three-and-outs. The offense had a couple good drives, and you see little momentum shifts where we can be really good. It’s just that consistency of being able to do it the whole game, and not just that second half or not just the first half and then run out of steam. We need to build it up throughout the whole game, and I think we all see that.”
Fangio echoed Risner in calling the fall-off in the second half “unacceptable.”
But his main message to the team after such a crushing loss was to regroup – focus on what they have been doing well, figure out how to fix what they can, and get to studying on Miami.
“I think you critique from the previous game, learn from our errors, where we could do better, show how things can turn quickly on one or two plays, show the good things that we are still doing—there are some of that still going on—and just get ready and be positive,” he said Monday, adding that players have to do their homework and take it to the practice field.
“[Miami] is a very good team right now,” Fangio added. “We have no problems with our guys efforts, their focus, their preparation. We’ve just got to, as a whole team collectively, do a little bit better and then I think we can get it turned.”
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 16, 2020