CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Cornerback Chris Harris looked around the near-empty locker room Sunday night, and provided insight to a Broncos team at a crossroads.
"This is the first time I have ever lost here," Harris said after the Broncos' 30-20 defeat at Oakland.
The Broncos won AFC West road games for five consecutive seasons. They haven't won a single game in a visiting division park this year, going 0-for-2. The defeats at San Diego and Oakland revealed issues that create concern when evaluating the Broncos' status as contenders.
The Broncos can't run. And they can't stop the run.
"And if you can't do that, then you can't win in this league," coach Gary Kubiak said.
The Broncos rank 23rd in rushing yards per game (96.8) and 27th in yards per carry (3.84). They are allowing 128.6 per game, with only the Dolphins, Browns and Niners worse. The Broncos haven't compensated with their aerial attack. Trevor Siemian, who looked to be favoring his injured left shoulder again and required lengthy treatment after the game, has guided an offense that has produced 31 three-and-out drives.
That ranks last in the NFL. Siemian has thrown 10 touchdowns with five interceptions.
With a 6-3 record and a road date looming at suddenly-gaining-traction New Orleans, coach Kubiak was asked if he was considering a change at quarterback to rookie Paxton Lynch.
"I feel really good about what Trevor's doing, but Trevor's like any other player -- he's got to get better," said Kubiak, whose team fell to 6-3 and has already matched last season's road loss total. "He is doing some good things. But like all of us, he has to be more consistent."
Kubiak didn't hide his disappointment with the offense. The Broncos ran 56 plays to the Raiders' 88. They exhausted the defense by logging fewer than 20 minutes in time of possession.
"We've just got to find a way to stay on the damn football field," Kubiak said.
The Broncos' 16 points in the first quarter sits third-worst. Their 20 points in the third quarter ranks sixth-worst. These are scripted plays. Denver continues to get out of balance early, passing to set up the run. As a result, they have all but abandoned the ground attack in three of their last four games.
"We need to get back on schedule. I have full trust in the offensive coordinators," said veteran left tackle Russell Okung. "As an offensive lineman, I definitely want to run the ball more."
Kubiak indicated that Kapri Bibbs could receive more opportunities this week. He gave the Broncos a sliver of hope against Oakland with his 69-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
"Adversity is there," said Bibbs, who indicated he would remain on kick off return despite questionable decisions not to take touchbacks. The coaching staff appreciated his aggression, though he has to be smarter. "If you haven't faced adversity in your life then you shouldn't be in this locker room."
Cornerback Aqib Talib visited Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles to help solve the issues with his sore lower back. He said the pain injection helped. He was moving around better Monday, but there's no guarantee he plays this week. In fact, it is considered unlikely.
"I hated having to watch us on TV," said Talib, whose presence was sorely missed as cornerback Bradley Roby experienced his worst game as a pro.
No timetable was offered on Derek Wolfe's absence. The defensive end suffered a hairline fracture in his right elbow. He's expected to miss some time. ... Linebacker Brandon Marshall re-injured his left hamstring in the Oakland loss, but it wasn't as bad as the one earlier in the season that caused him to miss a game. "I have to get treatment and try to get it right," Marshall said.
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