DENVER -- The last time the Broncos won, your kids had not picked out their Halloween costume. The last time the Broncos won, the leaves were blushing a spectrum of colors. The date was Oct. 1 and it was an ugly win over the Oakland Raiders. Forty-nine days later, the Broncos are seeking another victory. The five-game spiral nearly knocked them out of contention, and became so odiferous general manager John Elway called out the players Friday night.
"We got a little soft," said Elway, sending a clear message of what he believes has gone wrong since the bye week. "We exhaled. And you can't do that in the NFL."
The schedule allows for a rebound. My Denver7 keys to a Broncos' victory.
1) Keep it simple
The Broncos' offense needs to focus on basics: blocking and running the football with a sprinkle of play action. It remains one of the most confusing elements of the season. The Broncos hired Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator, in part, because of his ability to adapt. He's shown none of that this season, leaning on three-wide sets as if it's 2014 with Peyton Manning and the aerial circus. Or Philip Rivers last season in San Diego. Given Elway's comments Friday, it would be a surprise if Denver comes out throwing Sunday. If McCoy's tenure is going to be more than a one-and-done, the Broncos should focus on running the football.
2) Everyone is accountable
The time for coddling underperforming players is over. And frankly should have never existed. Isaiah McKenzie is out as punt returner -- three weeks too late -- and tight end A.J. Derby is off the team. If guys aren't playing well against the Bengals, sit them. Let them watch a series or two. As former NFL boss Herm Edwards said, "You are either coaching it or allowing it to happen."
3) Play from the front
The Broncos have led for less than 5 minutes during the five-game losing streak. It has driven the defensive players batty. Teams jump out to a two-score advantage and go into a four-minute offense, refusing to put their quarterback at risk. With a lead, the Broncos' chances of mauling Andy Dalton into mistakes will increase dramatically.
4) Nothing special
The Broncos special teams has been awful. Brock Olivo admitted he deserves criticism. He means well, but complicated things. Many guys are on special teams because of a lacking skill set or inability to grasp the offense or defense. Why make special teams hard? Simplify and execute. Honestly, special teams, at their worst, should be neutral. Jordan Taylor will get his chance on punts with simple instructions he told me, "secure the ball."
5) Corner the market
The Broncos' best players remain neutralized. This week offers a chance for Von Miller, Chris Harris and Aqib Talib to leave their fingerprints on a victory. Harris against Brandon LaFell is a favorable matchup that should tilt in Denver's favor.
6) Contain WR A.J. Green
Dalton is not afraid to throw the ball deep to Green. Talib will likely receive this matchup. Green will get his yards, but keeping him out of the end zone is critical. The Broncos have proven they can't play catchup after trailing 106-24 in the first half of the past five losses.
7) Red Zone alert
Demaryius Thomas' season has revived with Osweiler at quarterback. After going 13 games without a score, Thomas has found the end zone on back-to-back Sundays. Cincinnati corner Dre Kilpatrick is slumping and should be targeted by Osweiler inside the 20.
Renck's prediction: Broncos 21, Bengals 18