DENVER — The Broncos' loss Sunday came with identifying marks like mustard stains on a tuxedo. In falling to 5-9 overall, the Broncos secured three straight losing seasons for the first time since 1970-72. The Broncos fell to 3-18 in December in Kansas City and rookie Drew Lock failed to become the first Denver quarterback to win his first three starts.
The 23-3 boxing of the Broncos' ears clobbered Von Miller over the head. He became introspective in ways uncommon for him, saying, "It defeats my soul. It's different from my lens. I am 30 years old. I have been playing in the league for nine years. I am ready to go again, bring what we had in the past back. I want that back. Down years, four down years, I get it. Now we are trying to get that going again. I am not losing hope. I am just telling you how I feel after this game. It doesn't feel good at all."
Miller's comments proved jarring — he mentioned that the team has tried everything from new coaches to team bonding to new schemes — because it spoke to the chasm between the Broncos and Chiefs, who have beaten Denver nine straight times. It created speculation that Miller was sending a message that he was open to leaving if the Broncos wanted to move on. Miller told me Sunday he still has hope, but his comments left many wondering about his future.
Coach Vic Fangio was not among them. Monday, he was asked what he thought about Miller's comments.
“I heard a little bit of it. I just think it’s the frustration of losing to those guys again and going through the last four years now where (there) hasn’t been a winning season," Fangio said. "But he’s been a positive influence and positive part of this team. That will continue."
Fangio said he would talk with Miller, but that's normal. He speaks with him regularly and believes they are on the same page. Miller is one of four players remaining from the Super Bowl 50 team, along with Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe and Brandon McManus. Miller hasn't topped the Chiefs since that season, and the Broncos have used seven starting quarterbacks. Miller remained bullish on Lock, calling him the future. But he said they need more help around him, as Denver was outclassed Sunday at multiple positions.
"We've tried everything," Miller said. "I don't really know what's going on."
The easy, if not chilling answer, is that the Broncos aren't good enough. They need another good draft haul — the last two years have been strong — and to land impact free agents who can stay healthy. The defense has improved under Fangio, ranking 10th in points allowed at 20.3 and first in opponent red zone scoring. However, the Broncos sit 21st in takeaways, and struggle to get off the field, ranking 22nd in percentage of three-and-out drives produced.
Denver requires upgrades at a handful of positions on both sides of the ball, among them a second receiver, a right guard, possibly a starting right or left tackle, a cornerback, inside linebacker help and line depth.
As much as the defense left disappointed Sunday — the group didn't force a punt until the 6:15 mark of the third quarter — the offense scored three points. It is a gnawing problem. It has been for four years. The Broncos score 17.1 points per game ahead of only Washington and Cincinnati.
"You always want more weapons. That's what Kansas City's got — three or four guys out there who are pretty high quality," Fangio said.
Broncos right tackle Ja'Wuan James spoke with general manager John Elway and Fangio about his troublesome left knee. He sprained his MCL in the opener, and told Denver7 on Friday it continues to buckle. It is possible he lands on the injured reserve this week. "I don't know the answers to that yet. We're working though it. ... I don't think he feels it's 100 percent, so he's a little leery right now," Fangio said. ... Tight end Noah Fant undwerwent an MRI on shoulder on Monday, and Fangio believes he will be "fine" moving forward. Fant has played through multiple injuries over the last few weeks.