ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On their three most recent defensive possessions, the Broncos registered a touchdown on a fumble return, a fourth-down red-zone stop and a third-down interception against Chicago.
As the Broncos approach a critical matchup with the New York Jets, the Broncos will look to turn that momentum into consistency for four quarters on Sunday.
After Thursday's practice, Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said the Broncos' defense's second-half execution was encouraging and their progress is apparent, but that improvement is still necessary.
"We found out that doing it right makes a difference," Joseph said. "All the guys worked hard all week to improve fast and it showed in the second half, but we're not there yet. That first half was still a little choppy as far as giving up plays. We gave up two big plays that we shouldn't give up. So we're getting closer. But the boys are working, they're fully engaged every day [and] it's a race to improve. But the second half was fun to watch — it was clean."
Joseph said establishing consistency is the priority, especially in a matchup against a Jets offense that features playmakers in the pass and run game in Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, respectively.
"If you watch the entire game [against the Bears], it's about 10 snaps that you don't like, and the rest is pretty good football," Joseph said. "So it's a race to be more consistent and just to play four quarters of really good football and make people beat us and not give away plays. There's too much of giving away explosives and touchdowns, and that's got to stop — like now."
Inside linebacker Josey Jewell, who missed the game against the Bears with a hip injury but was a full participant in Thursday's practice, agreed with Joseph's message.
"We need to keep on stacking those [plays], and we need to be way more consistent throughout the [game]," Jewell said. "We can't have a couple quarters that we fall off. We need to have a full game together that's consistent and everybody's on the same page. We're looking to do that this week."
Speaking on the defense's improvement between the first and second halves, cornerback Pat Surtain II underscored the adjustment to more physical football and close coverage as a difference-maker.
"At halftime, we figured it out what we [were] doing wrong," Surtain said. "… We just simplified the game plan and we just played body-on-body and started making plays. We sort of got it into halftime knowing what we [were] going to do to fix the problem."
Joseph clarified that Denver opted for more man coverage and said cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian's strong play ensured the halftime pivot was a success.
"I think what Pat meant of how we played certain things, we just played it one way," Joseph said. "It was easy for guys to get body on body and play more match and man than play zone, and it helped us. I thought the nickel, [McMillian], played very well in the second half because he can really cover. We went to more five-man pressures in man coverage and it made it easy for our guys to match up the motions."
SURTAIN DISCUSSES HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JETS CORNERBACK SAUCE GARDNER
Surtain and Jets cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner are routinely ranked among the game's top defensive players and were both named first-team All-Pros in 2022. Surtain said that last year's Pro Bowl festivities in Las Vegas gave the duo a chance to connect.
"We talked some at the Pro Bowl," Surtain said. "We communicate sometimes on the phone, through social media and that's about it."
Surtain downplayed any rivalry between the two cornerbacks and said his focus is on getting Denver's first home victory of 2023.
"That's the word that's going around, me and him, but I don't try to get too much involved in that," Surtain said. "I'm just focused on winning this game. … For us to create momentum, this is a big game for us."