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Broncos reach bye with hope, plenty of room to improve

Defense lives up to billing; offense needs better
Posted at 4:24 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 19:20:46-05

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There is clarity from brevity.

Monday, after the team's most entertaining win of the season, I asked coach Vic Fangio of his assessment of the 3-6 Broncos entering the bye week. His team, after all, has suffered three heart-in-a-blender defeats, took the bagel in September, but has won three of its last five games.

"We’ve had those three ‘walk-off’ losses, as you describe them. A few of those kickers turned around and missed their next opportunities for that. We are 3-6. Could we be better? Yes. Could we be worse? No," Fangio said. "I don’t really know how to answer that question other than we’ve had more than our chance to have a much better record than we do, but it is what it is.”

The NFL standings are like yoga pants -- revealing and uncomfortable. The Broncos' record is their identity, but fails to tell the entire story. Denver has only been outscored 170-149 this season, suggesting they should be closer to .500. They rank ninth in points allowed (18.9 per game) and second best in preventing red zone touchdowns. Fangio's fingerprints are all over this unit. The group belongs in the conversation as a top-five defense, rather remarkable given that several players were not starting when the season began, like cornerbacks Davontae Harris, Duke Dawson, outside linebacker Malik Reed, linebacker Alexander Johnson and nose tackle Mike Purcell.

Still, Fangio wants more. Because of a slow start, the Broncos rank 22nd with 19 sacks and 27th with seven takeaways.

"We just need to, I believe, cover a little bit better at times in one-on-one coverage situations. We didn’t have a good day yesterday in the secondary of tackling their receivers, mainly after they caught the ball. That’s been unlike us for the most part," Fangio said. "I’d like to see a little bit more pass rush. Those are some of the things.”

Reed represents the new wave of players, his entrance into the starting lineup at the expense of Bradley Chubb (torn ACL). The kids have been all right, bringing energy, while showing potential.

"I am learning to take the good with the bad. It's been a good experience. Each game has been different, and I have learned from each one," Reed said. "I feel like we are continuing to build. We are doing great things, and I feel like last week was a culmination of all the work we have put in that allowed us to finish that game."

The Broncos sit outside the playoff picture because of their underwhelming offense. The Broncos average 16.6 points per game (28th) and 27 of their 101 drives have been three-and-outs, third worst. That explains why Broncos Country welcomed Brandon Allen with open arms and rowdy cheers Sunday. He completed 12 passes, made plays with his feet and this two touchdown passes were one more than Joe Flacco had last month. He walked into the locker room Monday, unbothered. He was the same player. Same guy. But life had changed. His phone was littered with texts and his Twitter account features 45,000-plus followers.

Drew Lock is expected to begin practicing next week. For now, the Broncos' offense is Allentown. He's 1-0. Now, the hard part. Doing it again on the road at Minnesota.

"He's got moxie," defensive end Derek Wolfe told Denver7. "I wasn't surprised. The way he carries himself -- he carries himself as a professional. He's a personable guy. He talks to everybody on the team. I eat breakfast with those guys in the morning. I didn't know much about him. But I said it before the game, that Brandon Allen was going to go in there and give us a spark. And he did."

DeMarcus Walker told Denver7 he injured his right shoulder during last Wednesday's practice. He couldn't dress himself late last week, leading him to be inactive against the Browns. Treatment is accelerating his recovery, and he hopes to be ready for the Minnesota game. "I want to finish this season strong." ... Right tackle Elijah Wilkinson on Allen. "We believed in him and rallied around him." ... Fangio provided an assessment of struggling left tackle Garett Bolles, who had two more penalties vs. Cleveland. "I think Garett kind of plays with more confidence than you think and maybe that is warranted. He didn’t play too bad yesterday. Again, he’s a young player still, especially in light of his limited background in football before he got here. It’s our job to maximize and make sure we’re doing everything possible to develop him. If the guy has talent, we want to maximize every opportunity to develop it.”