The Denver Broncos had just 12 first downs in Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, but that seemed like progress.
The excitement about the Broncos that lasted the offseason is gone. It’s hard to go anywhere in Colorado without hearing complaints about rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett, and even grumbling about quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Broncos are 2-2, but it looks a lot worse. The offense in particular was a disappointment. The Indianapolis Colts have their own issues, hosting a Survival Game on Thursday night’s Amazon Prime Video show.
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The Broncos get their third prime-time game of the season in five weeks, and many Broncos fans would probably prefer it to be tucked away on a Sunday afternoon among other games. The same goes for the Colts 1-2-1.
The Broncos offense was mediocre
The Broncos started the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The offense was terrible in the red zone and Hackett became a household name for a still-controversial decision to let time run and try for a 64-yard field goal. The following week was hard work for the offense in a home win over the Houston Texans. The offense was even worse in Week 3, with three outs and nine outs, but somehow earned a late 11–10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Last week, a 32-23 loss to the Raiders, with just 12 first downs, sent the fanbase into a frenzy. There aren’t many players or coaches Broncos fans don’t want to fire.
In that game, Denver also lost running back Javonte Williams for the season and passed running back Randy Gregory for several weeks to injury. It’s bad for the Broncos right now.
Too often they lose on the first try. They’ve had games in which they can’t run in the red zone. The passing game has been up and down. There were some good signs but nothing close to a full game.
“I think it’s just consistency,” Hackett said this week. “We just don’t want to get hurt. We want to make sure we’re continually moving the chains. We had a good third down week and then we had a bad third down week. We had a good red zone then a bad red zone. So I think it’s about putting it all together.”
Wilson has 980 yards, four touchdowns and a 91.1 pedestrian passer rating in four games. That’s not what the Broncos signed up for when they traded multiple draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade for a quarterback who was supposed to end the Broncos’ post-Peyton Manning blues at this post.
There’s still time for Wilson to be an impact player, and the Broncos aren’t out for anything at 2-2. But all the positive offseason buzz has been replaced by skepticism and concern.
Foals also have problems
The Colts are also in bad shape. They were AFC South favorites at the start of the season, but four weeks later are 0-2-1 in divisional play. They face the Broncos without two injured stars, running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard. They’re not just two of the best players in the Colts, they’re two of the best players in the entire NFL.
The Colts have multiple issues, from a mediocre defense, to the offensive line surprisingly unable to protect Matt Ryan or get a push in the running game, to the game from Ryan himself. Indianapolis beat the Kansas City Chiefs, but at 1-2-1 they rarely looked like a playoff team.
One of those two teams will sink deeper into the doldrums after Thursday night. It’s too early in the season to panic, but both teams should be worried about how they look in 2022. Some of their issues seem fundamental and could be difficult to solve.
It won’t even be mid-October, but Thursday’s losing team won’t feel too good about the direction they’re heading this season.
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