ENGLEWOOD -- Outiside the visitor's locker room at Empower Field, the wall provides a screaming reminder of the 5,280 feet of elevation. It remains part of the Broncos' mystique, a component in their Denver success.
That vanished over the past five seasons. The Broncos own a 19-21 record at home, compared to 27-5 in the previous four seasons. As the Broncos seek a return to relevance, they must regain their homefield dominance. That starts Sunday against the winless Jets with Broncos Country expected to pack the stadium for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.
"This fan base is very, very enthusiastic. I have been in some of the best, Chicago, San Francisco and I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and these guys are right there with them if not better," coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday. "They love the Broncos and we've got to give them what they are hungry for."
The Broncos last had a winning record in 2019, finishing 5-3. This season brings nine home contest as part of the first-ever 17 game season. For the home math to add up to a playoff berth, the Broncos need to beat their AFC West opponents -- they have lost 11 straight to the Kansas City Chiefs -- and trounce teams not viewed as contenders like the Jets, Eagles, Bengals and Lions.
The last time the Broncos lost to the Jets at home was in 2010. They blanked them 23-0 in 2017. And the Jets offense brings reminders of Denver's the previous four years, ranking near the bottom in yards and points per game and 31st in points (10.0). Zach Wilson's five interceptions represent the second most for a rookie quarterback in his first two games (Peyton Manning holds the record with six). The No. 2 overall selection fired four picks against the Patriots last Sunday as his home crowd turned on him.
It won't get any easier this week. The Broncos' secondary is humming, leaving opposing receivers like Chick-Fil-A on Sundays: Never open. They will also boast the advantage of the home crowd creating issues on snap counts.
"The mentality for us is we don’t want to be the team that gets (Wilson) out of his slump," Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons said. "I can't even remember, not to make it dramatic, when I was this excited to go back home. After a whole season of no fans, and obviously the play being what it's been the last few years, I am excited. We are going to be in front of a soldout stadium that's deafening loud. I can't wait to see Broncos Country on Sunday."
Talk of the Broncos overlooking the Jets rings as comical. Denver has been one of the league's worst teams over the past five years. The Broncos cannot overlook anyone. This is where Teddy Bridgewater's slow heartbeat leadership should help.
"I had a mentor text me after the win in Jacksonville: 'Don't take the cheese. It's rat poison,'^" Bridgewater said. "You respect the game. You respect the opponent. That team works extremely hard, the same way we do."
The even-keel approach will be tested over the next month. The Broncos are down four starters after two games -- Bradley Chubb, Josey Jewell, Jerry Jeudy and Ronald Darby -- and following the Jets face the Ravens, Steelers on the road, the Raiders at home and the Browns in Cleveland on Thursday night.
"For us, it's about controlling us," Bridgewater said. "There are constant reminders that we have areas where we can improve. As long as we focus on us, and control what we can control, we should be able to play our best."
Chubb undergoes surgery
Bradley Chubb underwent successful surgery Wednesday, inspiring optimism about his healthy return after the bye week on Nov. 28, if not sooner. Chubb had a bone spur removed from his right ankle. There were no complications, creating a 6-to-8 week recovery window. Chubb was placed on short-term IR.
"Coming back stronger & with vengeance,” Chubb told Denver7.
Malik Reed, who Von Miller nicknamed "Dream Killer" as a rookie, will start in Chubb's absence.
"The origin of it is killing quarterback's dreams. It kind of stuck. People starting saying it. And I think they asked Von about it on ESPN. Teammates starting saying it," Reed said. "It grew on on me."
With Josey Jewell out for the season -- he will undergo surgery on his torn left pectoral muscle this week -- the Broncos added inside linebacker Micah Kiser from the Rams practice squad. He is familiar with Fangio's scheme as Brandon Staley ran a version of it last season with the Rams. ...
The Broncos signed running back Damarea Crockett, who reached his limit of two practice squad promotions, to the active roster. He has played a key role on special teams. ...
Mike Purcell (knee) was not expected to practice Wednesday.