ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With the Broncos looking to turn their season around after two tough losses, Head Coach Sean Payton said improvement has to start with reducing mistakes.
"There are some things that stand out right now, and before you talk about how to win games, you also have to understand how not to lose games," Payton said during his Monday press conference.
Penalties have been a primary culprit in Denver's season so far, as the Broncos' 19 penalties are tied for most in the league. Payton also listed Denver's 12 defensive fouls and five personal fouls as reasons for concern, and he said change has to start with him and his coaching staff.
"We have a number of plays where we're off the field on third down, but there's a flag on the turf, there's holding or defensive pass interference, which makes it an automatic first down," Payton said. "Instead of being off the field, those are turnover penalties. We have to be better and more disciplined in that area, and that starts with us as coaches."
Inside linebacker Alex Singleton detailed the defense's plans for improving its execution and emphasized the importance of the small details in preventing pivotal penalties.
"We've just got to clean them up," Singleton said. "Early in the season, we've got to keep working on it, whether we think they're penalties or not. In certain situations, they're calling them, so we've got to get better and figure out little details to work on. Because it's not just one person or one group, it's kind of everyone taking their turn, so it's everybody getting better and working on their fundamentals during these weeks.
"Everyone's going to make mistakes, and you've got to let those go. You've got to move onto the next play no matter what happens and just keep playing."
Early on against the Commanders on Sunday, the Broncos' offense showed how dominant it could be when it couples mistake-free football with effective communication. Center Lloyd Cushenberry III said penalties and self-inflicted mistakes made the difference between the offense's first-half performance, which included touchdowns on each of Denver's first three drives, and its struggles and inconsistency in the second half.
"The main thing [is] we stayed on schedule," Cushenberry said of the first-half performance. "We stayed on track with the opening plays that we wanted to run, didn't have penalties [and] didn't have many negative plays. As you can see in the second half, that's when the penalties and the negative plays start to happen. … Moving forward, we have to focus on not hurting ourselves."
BRONCOS AIMING TO FINISH STRONG IN CLOSE GAMES
Though the Broncos lost both of their first two games to start 2023, Denver has been competitive late in games, falling by one- and two-point margins against the Raiders and Commanders, respectively.
Cushenberry said that ability to finish out close games — and stay in command while holding big leads — will be critical in Denver's attempts to make up ground in the standings.
"I think that we need to realize that this is the NFL and teams are not just going to roll over or fall down when we have a big lead like that," Cushenberry said. "And then, you know, as we've learned the last few years, almost every game is one score — seven points, three points. [It] needs to be a point of emphasis that we need to finish those games, because we've lost too many over the four years that I've been here."
The Broncos' offense provided reason for optimism in the first half by building a three-score lead, and Cushenberry said that Denver will need to come out of the halftime break of future games with fresh approaches and urgency on every drive.
"[We] need to hone in on that and just come out [in] the second half with a sense of urgency and pretty much with a 0-0 mentality," Cushenberry said. "It doesn't matter what the score [is] in the first half — we have to finish. That's the league — close games every week. Those are the things we need to focus on."