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Broncos' momentum, postseason hopes take hit in 17-10 loss to Titans

NASHVILLE — The hits just kept coming.

To the Broncos' momentum. To the health of the roster. And to Russell Wilson.

"It's definitely frustrating," Wilson said after a Week 10 loss to the Titans. "I feel like we could've won that game."

In the 17-10 decision on Sunday, the Broncos suffered a defeat that was painful in more ways than one.

Denver's hopes for offensive momentum were dashed, as the Broncos punted nine times — including on five consecutive possessions to begin the second half. The Broncos also lost two more offensive linemen in Billy Turner and Graham Glasgow and saw Jerry Jeudy exit on the first offensive series. And with an offensive line that featured several reserve players, Wilson took a beating. The Broncos' quarterback was sacked six times and hit on 18 occasions.

Those factors combined to provide yet another blow to the Denver's playoff hopes, as the Broncos dropped to 3-6 and back to three games below .500.

"We wanted to mix it up," Hackett said of the protection. "We wanted to try to max protect. We wanted to quick game. We wanted to do as much as we could to try to keep the defense off and protect those guys and at the same time be able to protect Russ. It just wasn't coming together. It's unfortunate because it's another close game, another one-score game. We feel like the defense stepped up to the challenge with Derrick Henry. I give our defense so much credit. The offense has to find a way. We're [in] one-score [games] each time."

Defensively, the Broncos again did enough to win. Denver held Derrick Henry — who had rushed for 100 yards in five consecutive games — to 53 yards on 19 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per rush.

The unit forced six three-and-outs and allowed just two touchdowns, one of which came on a flea-flicker when Broncos defenders slipped in coverage. The only other blemish was a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half that cut the Broncos' lead to 10-7.

And yet it wasn't enough to save Denver from its fifth loss in its last six games.

With just over two minutes to play in the first half, the game looked much different. The Broncos used a 66-yard Jalen Virgil touchdown and a field goal to build a 10-0 lead, and the Titans had mustered just two first downs and 51 yards on their first six possessions. The Broncos, though, gave up a touchdown on the final drive of the half — and it put Denver's chances of winning the game into question.

"That was unfortunate that we gave that long drive up, but the defense did their job," Hackett said. "They did a great job throughout the game. We had that 10-0 lead and the offense has to score again. That was early in the game and we've got to be sure we put points up. It's that simple.

As Hackett said, the defense was not the reason the Broncos dropped their fifth one-score game of the season.

After going up 10-0, the Broncos had six possessions in the second half in which they either held the lead or trailed by just one possession. The Broncos mustered just five first downs in the second half until the final drive of the game. Denver finished the game 4-of-17 on third down.

"We were doing some good things in that first half again, and [then] third down continually gets us," Hackett said.

As the Broncos move forward from the loss, both Hackett and Wilson stressed that the offense must find more production.

"The reality is, we've got to find ways to win these games," Wilson said. "It's been five, six games or so that have been one-score games. I've got to find a way for us to get two more touchdowns, we've got to find a way to get two more touchdowns a game."

With a 3-6 record, the Broncos' chances of advancing to the postseason are grim. But Hackett and Wilson each still share belief the team can find sustained success — and Hackett said "it's about accountability" as the Broncos turn ahead.

"It's about holding myself accountable first, the coaches accountable and the players accountable," Hackett said. "As long as we point the things out that we can correct and get better on and everybody understands what that is and what we need to do to be able to go on a run at some point during this season, I think they'll be able to stay together."

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