ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It is not unique for the Denver Broncos to make a mistake in a game.
It happens and it’s unavoidable. But in the team’s current 3-5 state, the Broncos too often have turned one mistake into two, two into three, three into an even longer list — and the proof is in their current four-game losing streak.
“We have to get it right,’’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “We can’t keep giving people chances.’’
It was just a three-play sliver of the story in a 28-point loss, but a stretch in the first quarter this past Sunday offered a glimpse into what has become a frustrating trend in an increasingly frustrating season for the Broncos.
With just less than seven minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense faced a third-and-1 at the Broncos’ 37-yard line. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s attempt to get the ball to Torrey Smith fell incomplete, but Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was called for defensive holding.
Talib vigorously argued the call following the play, but the Eagles got an automatic first down. On the next play, Wentz used play-action, then calmly tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass — with an overaggressive Talib defending — to Alshon Jeffery.
On the kickoff following the score, Broncos linebacker Kevin Snyder was flagged for an illegal block in the back, so Denver started its next possession on its own 8-yard line. Just a small part of the team’s worst loss since 2010, but also part of a growing pile of mistakes that have shaped the Broncos’ struggles, which include almost every player on the roster at one point or another.
And while all involved agree it has to stop if the Broncos are going to salvage the second half of the season, the “how’’ to do it has escaped them.
“I don’t know. If I had the answer to that I could coach and play football at the same time, earn two checks,’’ Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “I’m a player, we have some of the best coaches, some of the best leadership in the world — we still can’t figure that out.’’
In short, over and over again, the Broncos have clustered their mistakes much of the time. They’ve averaged just over two turnovers a game — only the Cleveland Browns have turned the ball over more than the Broncos’ 17 — and only four teams have had more penalties than the Broncos’ 79.
They’ve been outscored 41-6 in the first quarter of their five losses combined as their sluggish starts have turned into a string of losses.
“Obviously there’s going to be some adversity, but it’s been four in a row,’’ Broncos coach Vance Joseph said earlier in the week. “It’s not so much if you lost to an NFL team — it’s how you lose sometimes. The Giants game bothers me how we played after the bye and how we lost that game. The Chargers game, obviously being shut out, and [Sunday’s loss to the Eagles]. Those losses bother me because we work hard during the week, we expect to win games and we expect to compete.’’
The Broncos will attempt to stem the tide Sunday night against the New England Patriots (6-2), a team Joseph and several of the Broncos players have said will force them to clean up their football act. The Patriots are, statistically, ranked last in the league in total defense and pass defense, yet they haven’t surrendered more than 17 points in any of their past four games.
And the Patriots have the same number of turnovers for the season — five — as the Broncos had in their loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City.
But the starting point may be how the Broncos manage their own frustration. Linebacker Shane Ray said this week: “We’re just as pissed off as the fan base.’’ But it’s a fairly new level of disappointment since wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is the only player on the team’s current roster who was with the Broncos the last time the team had a four-game losing streak in 2010.
“[We’re] definitely sick and tired of losing — there’s a sense of urgency,’’ running back C.J. Anderson said. “We know what time it is. We have a chance to do something special. We have a chance to do something really special that only us in that locker room believe we can do. That’s where it starts. If everyone can change their minds … to believe that we can do it, we can definitely make it happen. We have the players to do it. We have the roster to do it.’’