CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Outplayed. Outscored. Out of first place.
The Broncos suffered a humbling defeat at Oakland and at the center of the loss was a simple reason: three-and-outs. Denver began the game with four consecutive three-and-out drives, setting the tone for the most painful defeat of the season. The Broncos lead the NFL in three-and-outs (31 of 109 drives).
"We have to start fast. And we have to stay on the field," said quarterback Trevor Siemian, who was asked about his job security Wednesday. "We know we have to be more balanced."
Therein lies the rub. The Broncos' offense is designed to run the football to set up the pass. Yet teams are daring them to pass by the way they are defending them. So the Broncos run into a wall a few times early, then abandon the run and veer off script and into a ditch.
The Broncos have run into the ground on the ground.
The Broncos ranked fourth in rushing after the season opener. They rank 23rd currently at 96.8 yards per game. Anything less than 100 spells trouble as the Broncos have illustrated in losses to Atlanta, San Diego and Oakland. What makes it more difficult is that the rushing issues aren't isolated to one spot. One play one lineman will falter, before fixing his play on the next with the guy next to him messing up. The Broncos insist that the players understand the scheme. But it's fair to wonder where is the disconnect? Is it a talent issue?
The Broncos don't possess a lot of options to change the mix upfront, though it's worth keeping an eye on guard Billy Turner to see if he will soon press for playing time now that he's become more acclimated to the offense and altitude. Regardless of who starts, the offensive line has to be more consistent.
"Sometimes frustration is not a bad thing," admitted offensive coordinator Rick Dennison on Wednesday.
Kubiak believes in the scheme, and is looking for ways to approach things differently. Getting the tight ends more involved would help. A.J. Derby remains a wild card. He had a chance to help the team early last week and suffered a critical drop. The reality is that the offense must improve. The Saints are going to put up points, even if the Broncos defense plays well.
It starts at the start.
Denver has scored 16 first quarter points, third fewest. The Saints, by comparison, have posted 52. Denver is facing one of the league's worst defenses (408.5 yards allowed, ranking 30th), so the offense has no excuses. The onus is on the offense to create balance not just in the run and pass mix, but in time of possession to give the Broncos' defense a rest, and as a result, a fighting chance.
"Drew Brees is a heck of a player. We know what he's capable of," said Siemian, who is working through a sore left shoulder which has dropped his completion percentage since he was hurt at Tampa Bay. "It's our job (as an offense) to hold up our end of the bargain."