DENVER -- In a season of thuds, duds and flops, Sunday night represented the worst day of the Broncos' season. It began with a three-and-out defensive stand and quickly became a down-and-out vibe after a special teams meltdown of historic proportions.
After the Broncos' fifth-consecutive double-digit loss, a 41-16 drubbing by the hated New England Patriots, coach Vance Joseph admitted he's exploring changes, and looking to simplify games plans which players have been unable to execute on game day.
"We are not broken. We believe we can win," Joseph insisted.
There are no plans to dismiss special teams boss Brock Olivo, though his group spent three hours inadvertently campaigning for his firing. Punt returner Isaiah McKenzie, strapped with five fumbles and two turnovers in 20 punt returns, appears out for someone like Jordan Taylor who can execute a fair catch.
"I do (have confidence in Brock Olivo). I am in those meetings," said Joseph, whose team's special teams assistant is a kicking coach, making a move with Olivo less likely. "The mistakes we have had, obviously Brock is responsible, just like I am. He hasn't muffed the punt."
Special teams issues represent the start of the problems, and Joseph's lack of action infuriated fans on social media. The Broncos are sticking with quarterback Brock Osweiler, who showed improvement, for at least one week with the Paxton Lynch question lurking. Changes will be considered at other positions. Joseph said Osweiler played well enough to keep the job, and Lynch continues to get healthy, only throwing intermediate passes while the training staff determines if he can take a hit.
"He's still recovering from his shoulder injury. We will see where he's at. We want to make sure he's totally healthy. That time frame (on his health and when he might play) I don't know," Joseph said.
The loss to the previously winless New York Giants became a tug on the loose thread as the Broncos have unraveled. It's not that the Broncos are losing, it's how how they are losing. They have been the NFL's worst team for five weeks, and Joseph's patience with underperforming players and Olivo has only angered a fan base that was told this would be a "reboot, not a rebuild."
With these Broncos it's difficult to know where to start when focusing on the disappointment and despair. The special teams falls under the microscope Monday after mistakes led to 24 New England points. The Patriots produced a takeaway (on a McKenzie fumble), returned a kick 103 yards for a touchdown, and blocked a punt in the same game for the first time since 1979.
McKenzie accepted blame for his latest gaffes, there were three missed tackles on the kick return, and reserve safety Jamal Carter whiffed on his block on Rex Burkhead's smothering of a Riley Dixon punt.
Several defensive players grumbled about special teams on Sunday night. There was no denying McKenzie's mistake siphoned the oxygen out of the room. But the Broncos' defense has waded knee deep into a slump, struggling in the red zone. The unit has been exposed in coverage against running backs and tight ends. Quick passes to those players has marginalized the impact of Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, the team's three best players. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has struggled in three straight games against arguably the NFL's best teams -- Kansas City, Philadelphia and New England.
Derek Wolfe put it bluntly on Sunday, saying "It's like we're a whole new (bleeping) team. It's embarrassing," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "It's sad. It's sad that we went from a championship-caliber team to a team that stinks and nobody respects."
Linebacker Todd Davis re-inured his ankle in the loss, but hopes to play this week. ... Tight end A.J. Derby underwent an MRI on his sore shoulder. ... The Broncos have been outscored 55-9 in the first quarter and 106-24 in the first half during their five-game losing skid.