ENGLEWOOD, Colo – The Denver Broncos are hoping to leave some of their problems behind as they travel to south Florida this weekend in pursuit of their first win.
The Broncos (0-2) face one of the AFC’s two remaining undefeated teams, the Miami Dolphins (2-0), on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), and coach Sean Payton knows they can’t afford the turnovers, penalties, shaky quarterback play, and stumbles they’ve shown so far if they want to keep up with a team tied for third in scoring at 31 points per game.
Payton indicated Monday, a day after allowing a 21-3 lead to slip away in a 35-33 loss to the Washington Commanders, that the offense’s starting point may be to reduce the language in play calls to speed things up.
“The first thing we always try to look at – but as coaches, we have to do a better job of – is reduce the verbiage,” Payton stated. “We can easily get to a wristband if we have a longer [playcall].” We must reduce the number of variables. ”I just finished stating this in the team meeting: if… offensively, we’re having difficulties breaking the huddle and getting set up, we need to look at whether we have too much in [the game plan].”
Quarterback Russell Wilson was under constant pressure Sunday against a shaky offensive line, as Wilson failed to establish his rhythm and fumbled the ball over as the Broncos labored with the time.
“We were late with personnel [and] getting out of the huddle on a number of drives,” Payton said. “We took our time. That has to change, I mean. We used timeouts in the first half, which is something I’m not used to doing. We have to become better, I have to get better, and Russ has to get better at executing the play.”
There were positives on Sunday, as Wilson threw for 300 yards for the first time since the 2022 season opening against his previous team, the Seattle Seahawks. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 308 yards, his second game with three touchdown touchdowns since joining the team through trade last year.
However, Wilson was sacked seven times, lost a fumble that led to what Payton described as a “momentum-changing touchdown drive,” and was intercepted. The Broncos also battled at times to maintain the speed that Payton desires in the attack, and had to use many timeouts throughout the game just to avoid delay of game penalties.
“The most important thing is that we stay on schedule, and that I play cleaner,” Wilson added. “We can’t lose the ball.” One of the things we want is for drives to continue.”
The Dolphins not only score a lot, but they also strike quickly when they find an opening. Four of their touchdown drives have lasted 2:08 or less, with two lasting only six seconds.
Overall, Payton has stated repeatedly that he wants Wilson to lead the team out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage with “14 or 15 seconds” on the clock so that changes may be made while Wilson assesses the defense.
For the first time since November 2010, the Broncos scored three touchdowns in the first three minutes, but all of that momentum seemed to vanish after Wilson’s fumble with little under seven minutes left in the first half.
“The number one key against [the Commanders]… in every game last year where they didn’t have a takeaway, they lost the game,” Payton said.
As Payton put it, “at that point, there was a momentum shift,” and Washington was able to capitalize on the mistake and trim the score to ten points.
“That’s what we discussed,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “Basically, the idea was that once we got the momentum off the takeaway, that would be something that really built a little momentum for us.”
Wilson completed 6-of-8 passes for 154 yards in the first half, but following the turnover, the Broncos had three punts, an interception, and two field goals before falling short on a 2-point convert.
The fact that rookies Marvin Mims Jr., who had two receptions on two targets for 113 yards and a touchdown, and Jaleel McLaughlin, who got his first rushing touchdown of his career in the first quarter, did not touch the ball after halftime summed up the Broncos’ offensive choppiness.
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Payton explained Mims’ absence from the offense in the second half, saying, “Some of it is coverage driven, and some of it is what [package] we’re in.” I believe some of this is due to chance. We’ve got a few guys we’re trying to get the ball to, and we’ll keep doing so.”
However, Payton increased the pressure on Wilson, and Wilson’s reaction to it will be on the list of issues the Broncos must address.
“I thought we struggled [in pass protection], and as a result, the clock in Russell’s head is ticking,” Payton said.
The Dolphins, who frequently force opponents to pursue them, are seventh in the league in sacks through two weeks.
“We played really bad football for two quarters,” offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “I believe we were underperforming offensively. We didn’t form the proper huddle. We did not do our tasks correctly. We didn’t communicate effectively. We came to a halt. We fumbled the ball. Then you go into halftime and get the ball back, and we go three and out and start drives without moving the chains. That is simply unacceptable. We realize we need to improve there.”