SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Broncos no longer have any margin for error.
The 20-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday did more than break the Broncos’ three-game win streak. It guaranteed the Broncos must be perfect the rest of the season to have a chance at the playoffs.
For weeks, Head Coach Vance Joseph has spoken about having a small-picture focus with big-picture awareness.
But after Sunday’s loss, Joseph said he spoke with his team for the first time about the situation in which they find themselves.
“Our record right now, we’re still in it,” Joseph said. “Every game now is a must-win. We haven’t talked about that, but we have to now. Every game that we play from now on is a must-win.”
The Broncos will also need help.
Count the Colts, Titans, Dolphins, Ravens and Steelers among the teams that must lose — some more than once — for Denver to make it back to the postseason.
Quarterback Case Keenum, who led two second-half scoring drives after being shut out in the first, realizes where the Broncos now stand. That doesn’t mean he thinks Denver, which has won three of its last four games, needs to change much of anything.
“Keep doing what we’re doing,” Keenum said when asked how the team moves forward. “We don’t have to change anything ourselves as far as our mindset goes. We stay together, we continue to come to work every day and try to do our best.
“Some things are probably out of our hands as far as we might need to count [on] other [teams] … for certain things. Those are things we can’t worry about. We just have to do what we do, control what we can control, try to go 1-0. What a great opportunity this week, [a] Saturday night game. A team that has made some strides and is playing well. We’ve got our work cut out for us again.”
Von Miller didn’t seem to see much reason to change his approach now, either.
While he shouldered the blame for the loss Sunday after three offsides penalties helped keep San Francisco drives alive, he maintained that a “must-win” mindset is nothing new.
“Every game has been [trying to] win out, in my opinion,” Miller said. “This is the type of space I’m used to playing in, especially this season. It’s nothing new for our team.”
As the Broncos prepare for a Browns team that has also won three of its last four, they cannot let Sunday’s loss compound into another.
Joseph isn’t concerned with that possibility.
“It won’t be tough [to re-focus],” Joseph said. “Our guys are resilient. We’ve been that way all year. We’ll reset them, and we’ll go play good football on Saturday.”
And if there’s any pent-up frustration that lingers Saturday after the Broncos fell short in a game they needed to keep pace in the playoff race, Miller said he and his teammates will only direct it toward their opponent.
“We’re 6-7,” Miller said. “That’s nothing that any of us could predict, but I think getting mad and pissed, you’ve got to direct that toward something. If we want to get mad and pissed at somebody, we should get mad and pissed at the Cleveland Browns. Pointing fingers in the locker room, it’s not going to help us.”
The only thing that can help the Broncos is three more wins and a little help.
After Sunday’s loss, everyone seemed to embrace that truth.
At 6-7, that may be the Broncos’ only option.