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Broncos Notebook: Vance Joseph open for change after Denver's first loss

Zac Stevens Avatar
September 25, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There’s a belief that entities learn more about themselves in bad times rather than good times.

On Monday, that held true with the Denver Broncos.

A day after suffering their first loss of the 2018 season, head coach Vance Joseph was candid about his team.

Here’s what the head coach divulged.


Against the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos racked up a massive 13 penalties for 120 yards. Despite Baltimore having roughly half the penalties as Denver — and an outcry from fans, players and media — Joseph thought, for the most part, the officials were correct on Sunday.

“Most of [the penalties], it was good calls,” Joseph said on Monday.

On the two most controversial penalties in the game, the head coach not only didn’t dispute them, he agreed with them.

“It was on [Domata] Peko,” Joseph said, explaining the block-in-the-back penalty that negated Chris Harris Jr.’s touchdown after Justin Simmons’ blocked field goal. “Peko had his hands on his back, even though it was 20 yards behind the play, it was called very late, but he had his hands on his back, so we have to own it. That’s what they saw, that’s what they called and really, when I watched the tape, it was a good call.”

On Monday, Peko said Bradley Bozeman, the offensive lineman who he pushed on the play, deserved an Oscar for his acting performance.

The other controversial penalty was Phillip Lindsay being ejected for “throwing a punch,” as the officials called it, as he was on the ground attempting to recover a fumble.

“I couldn’t see if he threw a punch or not, but I saw him dive into the pile, which is illegal, so he can’t do it,” Joseph admitted. “It was three guys who dove into the pile — it was [Marlon] Humphrey’s for them, he was the first guy, then [Ron] Leary dove into the pile then Phillip dove into the pile.

“So it should have been three penalties on all three of those guys, but that’s against the rules. I didn’t see a punch being thrown, I couldn’t tell if a punch was thrown. He said he didn’t throw a punch.”

In front of the media, as well as in the team meetings, Joseph emphasized that his team can’t blame the absurd number of penalties on the officials.

“We have to own the penalties. We can’t talk around the penalties, we have to own them. They called them, so we have to own them,” he said, leaving no wiggle room for excuses. “We had four holding calls that pushed us out of scoring range… We left probably 20 points on the field.”


Through three games, Case Keenum’s 71.6 passer rating is the fourth-worst in the league. The three other quarterbacks that have a worse passer rating than him either started the season as a backup (Blaine Gabbert) or have been benched for rookies (Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford).

Despite that, Joseph doesn’t have any concern with Keenum moving forward.

“This is Case’s first time being the guy out of the gate. I think Case is going to play better and better with time,” the head coach said, backing his quarterback. “He missed practice on Wednesday this week, that could have affected how fast he played with the ball. But I am not concerned.

Keenum’s now had two-straight games in which he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has three touchdowns to five interceptions on the season.

Despite that, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“He does so many good things during the game, it keeps you hopeful he’s going to play better and better as we go along,” Joseph said. “That’s a tough defense to prepare for. They gave us some different looks that we weren’t prepared for, and we adjusted, obviously. He didn’t play perfect, but he didn’t play bad, either.”


For a third-straight week to open the season, defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ unit allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 275 yards against his defense.

“The passing game obviously gave us problems,” Joseph said Monday after Joe Flacco threw for 277 yards. “We got to challenge more at the corner position and make more plays. If teams want to throw the ball that quick, we have to play closer in coverage and make some plays early that way our pass rush can get there.

Joseph admitted there was a “blueprint” on how to beat Denver’s pass defense.

“Throw it quick, challenge the DBs, throw it quick,” he explained. “Keep Von Miller and [Bradley] Chubb and those guys at bay by throwing the football quick.”

After Week 3, the Broncos are in the bottom 10 in passing yards allowed per game. For years, Denver’s pass defense has been used to being the league’s best.

If there were any questions about Denver’s pass defense not being at the caliber of what it was in years past Flacco put that to rest.

“Honestly, if you want to really say it, this game, we could have thrown the ball 55 times, and I think it probably would have been to our advantage,” the veteran quarterback said following the game.

Now it’s on the Broncos’ coaching staff to erase any blueprint on how to beat their secondary.

“We definitely have to help our defensive backs more because teams do have a blueprint on how to soften our coverage,” Joseph said. “We have to have a better plan moving forward for our guys. As they adjust, we have to adjust even faster.”


Following the game, Chris Harris Jr. not-so-subtly called out the Broncos’ defensive game plan after seeing his unit have another sub-par game to his standards.

“We’ve got to disguise better as a team. Try to confuse them,” Harris said, adding the gameplan is too easy for opposing offenses to dissect. “Try not to give them easy looks. So, we’ve got to move around and try to do whatever we can to disguise them.”

Monday, Joseph responded to the strong statement made by his star defensive player by agreeing with him to an extent.

“Some of the problems could be that, but the bottom line is obviously we need to play better — especially in man-to-man situations,” Joseph said. “We got to coach better and help those guys play more shell defense on certain downs. We can coach and play better.

Joseph went on to give an example of how opposing teams have uncovered what Denver’s doing on defense before the play.

“Sometimes teams trap you in certain formations where you have to show your hand quicker,” he said. “We’re getting a bunch of reduced splits where guys who are pressed are playing more off and it brings your safeties off so it shows right now single high.

“When those things happen, we have to just play through them and play. But we can help those guys with more looks and help them with more coverage packages.”

Joseph vowed the team will add more disguises in the secondary and attempt to “make their lives easier.”

“I’m not concerned about the comments because Chris is playing good football,” Joseph said, shutting down any potential drama brewing within the organization. “He wants to win. I have no problem with what he’s saying.”


The only unit that shined against the Ravens was special teams. And even with that unit, there was one glaring weakness.

“On special teams, I thought we did some good things,” Joseph said proudly. “Obviously blocking two kicks in a game, that’s huge for us, but I thought as a punt unit we were not very good… They had three pretty good drives starts on our defense at midfield, which we can’t do. Two of those were from our punt team, which you can’t do.”

Marquette King, Denver’s punter, played a large role in that, averaging only 41 yards on his seven punts.

“He’s got to simply punt better,” Joseph said. “No different than our corners got to play better in coverage and we’ve got to block better. He’s a football player, he’s got to do his job. He’s got to punt better.”

King only had one punt for over 50 yards on the day, yet had four that traveled less than 40 yards.

After signing King to a three-year, $6 million contract in the spring, he’s had a slow start to the season, averaging only 44.6 yards per punt — 10th-worst in the league — despite playing in punter-friendly Denver for two of the three games.


On a day primarily filled with bad news, Joseph did have two positive pieces of information in the place where it matters the most, the injury front.

Tramaine Brocks with a left midway through Sunday’s game with a groin strain. The veteran corner had an MRI on Monday and “looks to be OK,” according to Joseph.

Brock “should” practice on Wednesday or Thursday and play in Denver’s game on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Adam Jones, who missed Sunday’s game altogether with a thigh injury, “will also be back next week against the Chiefs,” according to Joseph.

At a time in which Denver needs secondary help the most, it appears they’ll receive just what the doctor ordered.


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