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Broncos Notebook: Denver eyes efficient red-zone play ahead of matchup with Bears

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In pursuit of his first regular-season win with the Broncos, Head Coach Sean Payton is looking for Denver's offense to play mistake-free and consistent football in the team's Week 4 road matchup against the Chicago Bears.

"One of the keys to victory is [reducing] some of the self-inflicted [errors]," Payton said on Wednesday. "Sometimes there are mistakes that can be forced because [of] the opponent, and then other times … [it's about] eliminating, cleaning up some of that. Certainly, our second-half scoring [will be important]."

Payton also added in another potential area for improvement that could make the difference against Chicago: capitalizing on red-zone opportunities.

"I think this is a game where our red-zone efficiency is going to be important," Payton said.

Though the Broncos are tied for 25th in the league in red-zone percentage with a 45.5 percent conversion rate, Denver could have a prime opportunity to improve against a Chicago defense that has allowed a 75 percent conversion rate, tied for 29th in the league.

Quarterback Russell Wilson said the offense has shown promising signs, but he also sees room for improvement if Denver can turn its red-zone trips into touchdowns consistently.

"We've gotten the ball in the end zone several times — we can get the ball in the end zone more," Wilson said. "… I think there's some great things we're doing, but there's some things that we've got to be better at. There's some things that we've got to clean up, get a little tighter."

Payton also discussed one player who has been a go-to red-zone target so far in wide receiver Courtland Sutton. The Pro Bowl receiver has scored on 5- and 12-yard touchdown receptions already this season, which ties his output from each of the last two years.

Payton said the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Sutton's frame and strength could be a key to unlocking the Broncos' offense's potential in crucial situations, including red-zone and third-down opportunities.

"He's a big target," Payton said. "He's got strong hands, strong hands in traffic. And so when you're a quarterback and you're throwing to statures like that, your target zone is so much bigger. Not only in [the] red zone, but [on] third down. He means a lot."


In their first game against Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Broncos players on both sides of the ball were quick to praise Fields' playmaking ability and athleticism.

Though the Bears have started the season with three losses, Fields remains a perplexing matchup for opposing defenses. The Ohio State product rushed for 1,143 yards last season — seventh among all players — and has impressed peers around the league with both his passing and rushing abilities.

"I see a super athletic quarterback," safety Justin Simmons said. "When things sometimes get dark or the pocket collapses, his ability to create and continue to make plays happen for them is really unbelievable, watching it. Obviously, we've got a few guys in the league who are able to do that and kind of elude the pocket and make plays happen, albeit with their feet or even their arm. He's definitely one of those guys."

The respect for Fields extends to the Denver offense. Wilson marveled at Fields' athletic ability and work ethic and sees him as one of the game's ascending players.

"I think Fields is a little faster than me; he can run," Wilson said. "He's got some really amazing talent. I've gotten to know him a little bit over the past couple years. ... He's a competitor. A guy that's got a lot of amazing talent. He's still young. He's a guy who wants to compete every day, and so I've got a lot of respect for the type of player is — and what he can do on the football field is one of a kind."

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