While it isn't yet time to write the eulogy for the Broncos' 61st and most unusual season, the Broncos' struggles to protect the football on offense and pry it loose on defense offer a clear reason why the team has yet to gain any traction in the AFC race.
"When you establish yourself in the run game and you establish it and impose your will on the defensive line as an offensive front, it opens a lot of different things for your offense," said LG Dalton Risner.
The Broncos couldn’t afford any missteps on their narrow path to victory, and they had just enough of them to lead to a 22-16 loss at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
When Shelby Harris sat down for a Zoom conference call with Denver-area media on Friday, he was loquacious, thoughtful, intelligent and quick with a smile -- just as he usually is in those surroundings.
Drew Lock was the talk of Denver at this time last year, just as he is now. The reasons are different.
Two Broncos are atop Pro Football Focus' rankings for their position through 11 weeks. After signing left tackle Garett Bolles to a four-year extension, they have the opportunity to keep them both.
There were two words uttered about Justin Simmons on Wednesday that you would never have expected to hear said about someone playing better than perhaps any safety in the NFL.
Exactly one year ago, Garett Bolles was still defined by his mistakes. Now, he's defined by nearly flawless play.
The Broncos know what they have to do. They just have to commit to it. But at least they have a viable template now — which is more than they could say before Sunday.
No players have more on their shoulders before the snap in terms of identifying coverages and adjusting protections, and in quarterback Drew Lock and center Lloyd Cushenberry III, the Broncos have two players who have just 21 NFL starts between them.
“We can’t start drives with negative plays. That’s first and that’s the biggest thing,” wide receiver Tim Patrick said.
Drew Lock doesn’t have any broken ribs, and for the him and the Broncos, that will elicit sighs of relief. But should he play this week?
In a 37-12 plastering that resembled Clark Griswold's last-ditch trip to an off-brand casino where he lost at war, coin toss and rock-paper-scissors, the Las Vegas Raiders shone not because of anything they did, but because the Broncos did what they’ve been doing — only worse.
Denver's defense is guaranteed to see more games lost by starters than it did last year. How can it cope?
Midseason brings frustration, but hope as well. And hope starts with comparing the landscape now with just after the Broncos' 43-16 thumping at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs.