ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Reality clobbered the Broncos over the head over the past six days. They boast a four-game losing streak that threatens to spoil a season that began with such promise.
Sources insist coach Vic Fangio recognized the gravity of the situation, doing a deep dive into all facets of the team and its preparation Friday through Monday. The expectation remains that the Broncos will — finally — play with urgency and match the opponent's intensity with a few new wrinkles.
Denver has scored two first half touchdowns during the losing skid, and has allowed an opening touchdown drive on the first drive four times in the past six games.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater told me it's not time to panic, "but it almost is." Von Miller, who hopes to play as he recovers from a sprained left ankle, disagreed.
"It’s time to sound the alarm. The sense of urgency has to be at an all-time high. We can’t go out here and lose," Miller said. "And however you want to shade it or lace it up, the pressure is real. This is reality."
Miller remains blunt a week after all but guaranteeing a victory at Cleveland. As an 11-year veteran and future Hall of Famer, Miller sees no need to soften his words or worry about hurt feelings. He admits he loves his teammates, but the last month is evidence that what the Broncos are doing is not working.
"We can't really afford to lose anymore games," said Miller, who leads Denver with 4.5 sacks.
"As I mature and spend another year in the National Football League, you can't really get caught up in what is the right thing to say. All of us have been leaders in one locker room or another. Especially this year, I am going to say what needs to be said. No, my play is not perfect. I still have bad plays I put there, but that's not going to silence me from saying what's right. I have played on hella teams. I know what it looks like. I know what it feels like. I have won before. These guys haven't. Nobody is going to silence me on trying to create a sense of urgency when we are out here."
Miller has not practiced this week as he recovers from his ankle issue. It is a testament to his strength and flexibility that he did not suffer a season-ending leg injury given the gruesome way his body bent when he collided with teammate Dre'Mont Jones.
This represents an interesting time for Miller. He has been held without a sack over the past six quarters. If the Broncos lose to a 2-5 Washington team, it's fair to wonder if Denver will consider trading Von before Tuesday's deadline. General manager George Paton's posture has been to give Fangio and his staff every chance to win this season, even adding inside linebacker Kenny Young and outside linebacker Stephen Weatherly this week through separate deals.
There is also an argument for the Broncos to keep Von and, if unable to sign him as a free agent, receive a compensatory draft pick.
Von is not thinking about his future. He is living in the present, reiterating Thursday that he loves being a Bronco. His passion can be felt when he speaks these words. He has grown up here. But like many in Broncos Country, he has grown tired of losing after five years without a playoff berth.
"The time is now to win," Miller said.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said it was "a little harder to get into rhythm" when the Broncos only had 15 first half plays last week. That is true. However, the reason they only had 15 plays was, in part, due to the play calling, which included three three-and-out drives. ...
Washington's defense, hyped before the season, has been awful defending the pass, allowing 300.6 yards per game, dead last in the NFL.