ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Sunday in Kansas City, the Denver Broncos didn’t just cover the spread against the Chiefs, they covered it by nearly 10 points.
The 12.5-point underdog only lost to the Chiefs by three points.
But in Jerry Rosburg’s world, close losses don’t count as moral victories. They count as purely a loss. That’s why the team will make changes this week in order to try and beat the Los Angeles Chargers in their season finale on Sunday.
“Change? Yeah. Yeah. We lost. So we better change something,” Denver’s interim head coach said on Wednesday, when asked if there will be changes made this week. “We better improve.”
One change that will not be made is who will be calling the plays on offense.
“Yes, Justin [Outten] will continue to call plays,” Rosburg stated, a week after giving him play-calling duties. “A lot was going on last week when this was all being put together. A conversation with Justin, Klint [Kubiak] and the offensive coaches was a long process. [Outten] will continue to call plays. Klint will continue to be on the sideline with Russell Wilson.”
One week ago, not only did Rosburg change the play caller, but he went from a senior assistant, helping with game-management, to the interim head coach. Not only was the Broncos’ coaching staff shaken up, but the team had to prepare for their hardest game of the season in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
With the dust having settled for a week, Rosburg hopes he and the team will benefit from that continuity in his second week leading the team.
“I know I’ve had more time, I’ve had a better opportunity to approach this game from a technical standpoint, a schematic standpoint. I’ve watched tape. I’ve seen their players. I understand now better that I did a week ago, what we’re faced with,” he added. “And I also probably have a better understanding of ourselves having been on the sideline and watched practice from a different context.”
But that doesn’t mean everything will stay the same.
“To your question about change, I would say, if you go out and lose a football game you better not standpat,” Rosburg stated. “You better do something different.”
While not wanting to give away the Broncos’ game plan to the Chargers, Rosburg pointed to one area on each side of the ball that has to improve in order to play spoiler against Los Angeles.
“You watch that last game and what was the difference in the game? Well I saw some things on offense that I liked. Our run defense remains strong. Our ability to run the ball was pretty good. They beat us with explosive plays,” Rosburg said, identifying what has to change for Denver to have success. “They had like six explosive plays I think. We had two and one of them was, how do I say it, unfortunately readjusted.”
While Rosburg didn’t want to explicitly harp on needing to improve explosive plays, he continued to point to that as the major emphasis of improvement for both sides of the ball on Wednesday.
“Defensively, we did a lot of good things. The three three-and-outs that we had in the second half, we used to call that a knockout back in my previous position,” Rosburg said, talking about his days in Baltimore. “That’s hard to overcome, but their offense overcame that with explosive plays. And they beat us in the red zone. We didn’t play very well in the red zone on defense. I know our coaches are working on that.”
On Sunday, Denver held Kansas City to 46 rushing yards on less than three yards per attempt. The Chiefs long run of the day went for six yards.
However, Patrick Mahomes racked up 328 passing yards thanks to completions of 38, 28, 22 and 27 yards. Those four passes alone combined for 115 yards. Without those four big plays, Russell Wilson would have had more passing yards (222) than Mahomes.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ offense ran the ball effectively—including two rushing touchdowns from Wilson—but wasn’t able to connect on the deep ball enough.
“The run game [was] fine, but if you don’t have action off of that that opens up and gets the ball to your playmakers downfield, and you don’t have moving the pocket, those kind of things that come off the run game—we need to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands,” Rosburg said, pointing to needing bigger plays down the field. “I think I mentioned this earlier, I love the way Courtland Sutton plays this game. Jerry Jeudy’s had a good couple weeks. We need to find a way to not play this game in a box, I guess I would say.”
The Broncos’ offense needs to open up the box and, dare I say, let Russ… throw deep.
During his decade in Seattle, Wilson was one of, if not the, best deep ball throwers in the entire NFL. Since coming to Denver, his deep ball has been missing. One of the most promising signs from Wilson was his 44-yard completion to Sutton against the Chiefs. That, however, was called back due to a “highly, highly unfortunate” offensive pass interference penalty.
While Outten will remain Denver’s offensive play caller for the season finale, Rosburg wants to see him dial up more deep shots and get the ball into Sutton and Jeudy’s hands more.