Broncos have plenty to fix after first shutout in 25 years
By DAN GREENSPAN
CARSON, Calif. (AP) In a locker room still processing the franchise's first shutout since Nov. 22, 1992, the Denver Broncos knew there was plenty of blame to go around after a 21-0 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
The defense took the blame for not creating turnovers. The special teams took the blame for allowing a punt return touchdown that allowed the Chargers to play with the lead. And the offense, well, where to begin?
"Everybody had faults this game," linebacker Shaquil Barrett said.
The Broncos rushed for 69 yards and allowed five sacks. Quarterback Trevor Siemian couldn't move the ball down the field. When he did, tight end A.J. Derby fumbled after making a catch. Demaryius Thomas had an 81-yard play negated because of an offensive pass interference penalty.
"The past two weeks is not us," Thomas said.
For the offense, this was the culmination of issues that had been brewing for weeks. Denver had scored one touchdown in each of its previous three games before finally getting held scoreless for the first time since facing the then-Los Angeles Raiders 25 years ago.
Injuries have been a factor, notably on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Rookie left tackle Garett Bolles looked overmatched against the devastating edge-rushing tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Guard Andre Barbre started at right tackle. There were dropped passes, missed assignments and missed plays in the running game.
"We're not blocking well. We're not protecting well. We had some good plays called again today, we had some guys wide open. We're just not hitting the passes," Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said.
Joseph said he never considered benching Siemian, who was 25 of 35 for 207 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
"He's our quarterback," Joseph said. "It's a two-score game for most of the game, so why make a change when we're still in the game? It wasn't simply on Trevor. I felt up until five minutes to go it was a game we could have won."
Thomas was even more forceful in his defense of Siemian.
"I got Trevor's back, I don't care what nobody say," said Thomas, who had two receptions for nine yards. "It's about what we got to do as a group, as an offense to make us better. Once we do that, then you'll see people start pointing fingers at something else."
Taking pressure off the offense was a common refrain, either by giving them fewer third-and-longs or getting better field position. The Broncos were 3 of 14 on third down, 1 for 7 when needing at least seven yards. Four drives started inside their own 10-yard line.
The defense wants to rectify the latter problem by generating takeaways, something they did not do against the Chargers. The Broncos have one interception and no fumble recoveries in their last four games.
"There are so many different ways to get turnovers, and we're not getting any of them. We got to create a short field for our offense," linebacker Von Miller said.
In spite of the myriad problems, resulting in a performance as that several players described as "embarrassing," Miller was confident the Broncos can still recover.
"You can't lose two games straight and not have any issues, so we obviously got issues that we need to address from the top down," Miller said. "I strongly feel we'll get this corrected."
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Updated October 22, 2017