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Road to Nowhere. Broncos' issues away from home continue this season

Denver sits 18 games under .500 over past six-plus seasons in visiting stadiums
Broncos Panthers Football
Posted at 1:51 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 16:05:27-05

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Paths to redemption take many forms in sports — a statistical revival, a shaken slump, and the emergence of young stars. The path, however, does not include the road for the Broncos

Salient among their issues since Super Bowl 50 is the inability to win away from Denver. They are the equivalent of Clark Griswold in the Family Truckster. After spending 15 years on the Colorado Rockies beat, I know what hazards flashing looks like. And if you can believe this, the Broncos have been worse in visiting stadiums than the Rockies since 2016.

The Broncos' winning percentage on the road: .320.

The Rockies' winning percentage on the road: .413

Both teams have resided in the basement the last few seasons. The Rockies, save four a couple of years, have been awful on the road since their inception in 1993, unable to consistently solve the altitude-sea level roster Rubik's Cube. The Broncos reaching this nadir has been jarring. Taking in a smaller window, Denver is 13-33 over its last 46 road games.

Why bring this up?

The Broncos boast a 3-7 record, have lost six of their last seven games and head to Carolina seeking a lift. The Panthers stink. The Broncos are surprisingly favored by 2.5 points. But Denver has not won a road game in the States since Nov. 7 at Dallas, a remarkable 30-16 upset that represented the zenith of Vic Fangio's three-year tenure.

Over their last eight road games, the Broncos own a 1-7 record, their lone victory in London. Technically, the Broncos were the visiting team against Jacksonville, though those in attendance will testify to the Orange and Blue partisanship nature of fans.

Winning on the road is difficult for a number of reasons. A foreign environment. Weather. Playing surface. And, of course, the noise.

"You always have that home crowd advantage. Just look at our crowd last weekend, they were so loud and it was such a great atmosphere. It can stress an offense's ability to communicate, even in the huddle," coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "And when you have a check (at the line of scrimmage). But probably the crowd."

For the Broncos, it's simple. They struggle to win on the road for the same reasons they have nosedived at home — they don't score enough points.

To create neutrality on the road, it requires creating breaks, controlling the clock, putting the home team on the defensive. Denver has struggled in those areas again this season, averaging 17.2 points, while allowing 20.4. In another testament to how a team winds up four games under .500, the Broncos are better on the road offensively than at home, where they average 12.2, but their defense is worse.

In Carolina, the Broncos face a beatable opponent, but the Panthers' offense is functional at home. They score 20.5 points per game. And the Panthers bring the noise even as the team has struggled. Carolina averages 71,467 fans or 97 percent capacity. And as bad as their season has gone — their coach Matt Rhule was fired on Oct. 10 — the Panthers boast a 3-3 record at home.

And that's the thing with the Broncos. You can't assume any game is winnable. Denver's defense, which suffered another hiccup against the Raiders last week, the club a puncher's chance in what figures to be a low-scoring game. The defense has accelerated this year and the offense has not. Former All-Pro safety Justin Simmons has said repeatedly that defense travels when suggesting how to win outside Denver.

It makes sense. Even though, it hasn't made dollars or cents this season. In money time, Denver was unable to protect 10-point leads at Los Angeles and Tennessee. On a team with so many issues and so little margin for errors, goals change. The Broncos would no longer have to squint to see optimism if they won two more road games — at Carolina and at the Rams — and Russell Wilson gained traction over the final two months. He completed 77.4 percent of his passes in the first week of Klint Kubiak calling plays. But it goes beyond accuracy.

During this dreadful stretch the past 6 1/2 seasons — the Broncos have the second longest active playoff drought behind the Jets — the Broncos have never had their quarterbacks finish with fewer than 16 touchdown passes. Wilson is on pace for 12. That won't work, and if this is who Wilson is the Broncos are doomed.

The former Rockies draft choice needs his 4-for-4 Coors Field game, except on the road where dreams have gone to die this season.