The Denver Broncos head into their Week 6 matchup with AFC West rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders in desperate need of arresting their slump.
After a flawless 3-0 start, the Broncos find themselves 3-2 after back-to-back losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Despite their early season velocity, the Broncos’ defense has been slowed down of recent weeks, against the pass vs. the Ravens before being gashed on the ground by the Steelers. Rookie running back Najee Harris rushed 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown — averaging 5.3 yards per carry. All in all, Pittsburgh rushed for 147 yards, certainly a surprise to Broncos Country given the average of 70 rushing yards allowed through four weeks.
Lack of Adjustments Led to Broncos Loss
Former Broncos’ Super Bowl champion turned Fox Sports analyst, Mark Schlereth, revealed what Denver failed to do, ultimately leading to the loss.
“When you can’t defend the run, or refuse to defend the run, at some point you gotta get out of that two-high safety look,” Schlereth said on 104.3 The Fan. “You gotta commit an extra guy if you can’t stop them with your front seven and that’s exactly what the Broncos struggled with. They could not stop that running game.
“When you can’t stop it, when they can run it on you that way, you know what you can’t do? You can’t rush the passer. One sack off a ball that was really a coverage sack…there were no real opportunities, no true opportunities to rush the passer.”
Like many within Broncos Country, Schlereth found himself frustrated with the lack of changes from the sideline, particularly as it related to the team’s defensive scheme and play calling.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the lack of doing something different, the lack of saying ‘Hey, what we’re doing isn’t working so let’s change something up, let’s start committing extra people to the run game, let’s start playing some man-to-man coverage and you just didn’t get a lot of it.”
Positives Moving Forward
Despite the trying performance at Heinz Field, there were some positives to take out of the 27-19 loss, particularly in the form of a one-time Pro Bowl receiver.
“Talking to the coaches about Courtland Sutton, and [him] not quite being there yet, being medically in good shape and feeling good but not quite jumping over that mental hurdle, Schlereth said on ‘The Fan’. “I think you saw him grow in confidence yesterday and that’s a really good thing.”
Many have raised questions as to where the Broncos team sits within the AFC. Are they a contender for the division, even a playoff team? Or was their good start a mirage altogether? Schlereth didn’t exactly answer the long-term prospects of his former team but didn’t present the gloomiest of pictures.
“I think this team is pretty good, I just think from a coaching standpoint, it’s gotta be better and when things aren’t working, you’ve got to be able to, in-game, change things up and to do things a little bit differently.
“I still am encouraged, I think this team is probably a little bit better than I thought they would be coming into [the season] and so that part is encouraging. It’s just when you wait around for three quarters before you make some adjustments and start putting some drives together, it’s tough to win games that way.
“They get Jerry Jeudy back, I think that’s going to make a big difference from a putting opponents in harm’s way, giving them another weapon to go to, I think that’s something that’s missing with this team.”
Follow Patrick Djordjevic on Twitter: @Patdjordjevic