ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Lost in the chatter about the Broncos' red-zone inefficiency and penalty woes is a critical part of the conversation.
Despite the problems that have hurt Denver's offense — issues that Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, quarterback Russell Wilson and every other member of the offense are set on correcting — Denver's offense has shown potential through the first two weeks of the season.
Through Week 2, the Broncos' offense ranks seventh in total offense and yards per play and in the top 10 in both rushing and passing offense. According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos also rank first in yards per drive.
Denver's also shown signs of being a balanced team; through two weeks, only the Broncos and Bills rank in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense.
As the Broncos approach a Week 3 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers — who rank first in the league in total defense — they'll aim to realize that offensive promise while minimizing their mistakes. And ultimately, Hackett and Co. realize their top goal is to find the end zone and improve upon their 16 points per game average.
"That word, 'potential,' is a scary word," Hackett said Wednesday. "It's one of those things that, yes, there have been certain aspects of the game that we've performed at a high level. But in the end, this game is about scoring points. I think that it's just about finishing for us. We have to finish. We have been very close, it's frustrating at times, but it also can be potential and positive at the same time. In the end, it's about putting the guys in the right spots and letting them make plays. That's what we need to see now."
Denver's largest area for improvement comes in the red zone, where the team has started 0-for-6. As Wilson has evaluated the Broncos' film, though, he's seen signs that portend success. On Wednesday, he pointed to opportunities on five of the possessions that could have easily been touchdowns, if Denver cleans a few things up.
"Five of the six isn't bad, that's how I look at it," Wilson said. "It's a game of inches, a game of discipline, it's a game of doing things right and it changes the whole perspective of everything. We were really kicking butt, so the great thing is we are doing a lot of great things well. It's just fine-tuning the details, and [we] have to get more touchdowns down there."
As Wilson said after the Broncos' Week 1 game, Denver must find ways to create more game-altering plays. The Broncos' quarterback said he's confident the offense can create those, and he's optimistic about the team's future potential.
"I've been fortunate to score a lot of touchdowns in the red zone and everything else," Wilson said. "It's just [that] there's moments and there's plays that are just miraculous plays, there's plays that are just your easy ones [where] you walk in or the guys are wide open, there's plays that are contested — and we've had a lot of contested ones, we just barely didn't get in there. I'm not concerned; I'm actually really excited because I think that where we can go if we just fine-tune that little piece and make those one or two plays here or there every game. I always call them game-altering plays. It makes a massive difference in the games."
Both the play design — "We've had some really great stuff," Wilson said — and the middle-of-the-field success have left Wilson encouraged by what's to come.
On Sunday night, against a tough 49ers defense, the Broncos will look to turn potential into points.