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Winless in Chicago. Broncos, Bears seek first win

Broncos last started 0-4 in 2019
Broncos Dolphins Football
Posted at 8:50 PM, Sep 30, 2023

CHICAGO — It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When the Broncos hired coach Sean Payton, they were supposed to become strangers with losing. Instead, the stench of the last seven years continues wafting over Centura Training Center.

The Broncos boast a 0-3 record and are 5-19 over their last 24 games. Sunday, they stumble clumsily into Chicago to face the equally winless Bears. Following the Miami Mauling, the Broncos find themselves clawing to save their season, while fighting for a morsel of respect.

There is no blueprint to redemption. But there are necessary steps. It starts with a sobering look in the mirror and a willingness to move forward with pride.

“I think we are fine. You have to be professional about things. Sometimes football handles you a lot of humility, and that certainly happened on Sunday. You take that as a learning lesson. You take that as an opportunity to grow and find out what you are made of,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “That’s what we are all working for. Not only to turn wins and losses around, but the way we do things around. The way you do that and respond to a loss like that is by playing your heart out.”

The Bears offer a panacea. They have dropped 13 straight games dating to last season. The Broncos, however, haven’t won a road game in the United States since Nov. 7, 2021, a streak spanning 12 games. If the Broncos cannot beat Chicago, it’s time to focus on dumping players at the Oct. 31 trade deadline and gathering intel on USC quarterback Caleb Williams and UNC star Drake Maye.

My Denver7 keys to victory:

Show up, show out

The chance of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph keeping his job beyond this season nosedived over the last six-plus quarters as Denver allowed an eye-bulging 102 points. Joseph is a proud man. He knows this unit must make adjustments. It starts with being more physical at the line of scrimmage with the defensive line and corners taking a more aggressive posture. If this team has any pride, the defense will play its best game.

Stay in your lane  

The Broncos edge players have not produced as expected, save for Jonathon Cooper. Frank Clark (groin) is out until at least next week; Nik Bonitto is still developing, and Randy Gregory has not produced. He has one sack and lost his lane last week in the running game. He must stay disciplined with Bears quarterback Justin Fields. Fields has been awful passing, but he rushed for 1,143 yards last season. His yards per carry has dropped from 7.1 to 4.5 this year, though the idea of him running 10-to-15 times this week remains on the table.

I Spy, you Spy

What is the easiest way to prevent Fields from reenacting the 2022 ground game? Spy him. That’s where inside linebacker Drew Sanders comes in. The rookie played with his hair on fire last week, and the Dolphins preyed on his aggressiveness with eye-candy motion. With Sanders replacing Josey Jewell (groin), the job should be simple. Shadow Fields and let his athleticism loose.

Ground Chuck

The Broncos were built to run the football. That’s why they signed McGlinchey and Ben Powers. But they have passed 104 times compared to 65 rush attempts. They need balance, and the Bears don’t stop the run well. They are worse against the pass. But a heavy dose of Javonte Williams mixed in with Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin on third down should create play-action opportunities.

Mims the Word

The Bears secondary is decimated by injuries. They allow 285.7 yards through the air. Enter Marvin Mims Jr. He is a fiber optics player in a dial-up world. He has receptions of 60, 53 and 38 yards. And on special teams he owns a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 45-yard punt return. There’s no reason for him to play 15 snaps. It should double. There’s not a single rational explanation for him not getting at least eight targets. One big play could be the difference in this game.

On second thought

Russell Wilson is not responsible for the winless start. He boasts five touchdowns with no interceptions in the first half. The second half, however, features two picks and one touchdown. He has shown improvement this season. But the Broncos need more. When the game hangs in the balance, he must play his best.

Clean it up

The easiest way to beat a bad team is by not giving them extra opportunities. The Broncos rank 30th in the NFL with 26 penalties. That is an embarrassing number. Play clean and Denver should win.

Troy’s Prediction: Broncos 25, Bears 17