BRONCOS

Over the last six years, the Denver Broncos lead the league in one key stat

Sep 11, 2023, 3:19 PM | Updated: Sep 12, 2023, 12:40 pm

Do the Denver Broncos know how to win?

It’s a question that lacks tact or delicacy. But sadly for the Broncos, it’s a fair question after six losing seasons. And it’s particularly valid when it comes to close games.

Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders piled another log onto a roaring fire of frustration. Because since their last winning season, no NFL team has lost more one-score games than the Broncos.

The defeat was the Broncos’ 35th one-score defeat in that span. No other team has more than 33. And since the start of the 2021 season, the Broncos have 15 one-score losses — three more than any other team. Their 5-15 record since 2021 in one-score games also sits at the foot of the league.

And that’s a problem, given that 20 of the Broncos’ last 31 games were decided by eight or fewer points.

“I told them afterwards, ‘… In our league, most of these games finished within a touchdown of each other,'” Broncos coach Sean Payton said Monday. “Those are just the facts in our league.

“… . It is what it is, but it’s important to understand that we’re going to be in a lot of these close games and the fine line of winning and losing is critical. Penalties come into it [as well as] big plays, all these things.”

The Raiders had as many penalties as the Broncos did Sunday. But other factors mattered, of course. Special-teams gaffes, errors of execution … you know the drill. Change one thing like Phillip Dorsett’s foot being partially out of bounds in the third quarter, and you might change the outcome.

But this is where the Broncos sit. They are a team trying to find ways to turn those narrow defeats into future wins.

CHANGING THE MINDSET OF THE DENVER BRONCOS

Still, the Denver Broncos were resolute about one thing: The past losses won’t define them. Last November — following another one-score loss to Las Vegas — Justin Simmons lamented about the issues in culture that had set in over the years.

“A big talk we have had recently is culture. As players, taking onus. It’s Year 7 for me. Coach Hackett is my fourth head coach. And that is just wild to think about,” Simmons said last Nov. 20. “And there is so much turnover. Everyone wants to point the blame on certain people. I was just having a talk with a lot of the guys that have been here — the select few that have been here over the years — and we talk about culture.

“We have a tight-knit group, but something’s not going right, obviously. It’s our job — my job — a guy that has been here now for a while, to figure that out.”

Fast-forward nine-and-a-half months. The coaching staff changed yet again. Change swept through the roster, too.

But these Broncos swear it will be different this time.

“Yeah, I definitely feel like it’s a winning culture around (here),” Williams said. “Everybody’s got a little swagger to ’em. Ain’t nobody walking around with their head down or anything like that. We know we’re a good team. We’ve just gotta go out there and show it.”

And Simmons — who spoke of culture back then — politely brushed off the notion that past years mattered to this team.

“No one’s thinking about the last seven years,” safety Justin Simmons said when asked about No disrespect, I didn’t mean to cut you off. But it’s a new year. It was a close game.

“We’ve just got to figure it out. It’s Week 1. No one’s throwing in the towel. We’ll watch the film, we’ll come back, we’ll make adjustments and we’ll win those games down the road.”

In the locker room, the Broncos believe that.

But convincing a skeptical public in the world beyond those walls … that will take results.

***

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Over the last six years, the Denver Broncos lead the league in one key stat