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'Every game's been a dogfight': Broncos confident despite 2-2 start

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Hopefully the Broncos had their coffee early Wednesday, because Von Miller was ready to work.

At 7 a.m., he was already reminding his teammates about their upcoming task in Week 5.

The Broncos, who will visit the New York Jets on Sunday, are approaching an opportunity to get back above .500 after a two-game skid. So Miller, a team captain, wasn't about to dwell on a last-minute loss on Monday night to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Instead, he's focused on helping his team break a 1-for-11 streak on the road.

"That's the first thing that Von said this morning," defensive end Zach Kerr said Wednesday. "It was like 7 o'clock in the morning, and he was talking about it.

"Guys are ready, our leaders are ready. We've just got to follow suit."

If the Broncos were struggling to be competitive on game day, the idea of rebounding from a 2-2 start would be a tough sell.

That's not the case, though. Not even close, really.

The Broncos have been in striking distance in each of their first four games, and none of the contests were really decided before the final few minutes.

Perhaps, then, it makes sense that the Broncos have retained a sense of confidence.

"This team's just better — period — from a year ago," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Wednesday. "We're mentally tough. Every game's been a dogfight. We've been right there. Just a couple plays, a couple little minor details, things that we can fix, and we're going to be all right." 

On the defensive side of the football, those minor details could include finding a way to bring quarterbacks down or the couple situations in which the unit did not appear set before the opponent's snap.

But there was growth on Monday night, as well.

Look at the team's secondary, which allowed several big plays against Baltimore and lacked aggressiveness against the Raiders. After Harris asked for the defense to disguise more coverages — and Head Coach Vance Joseph acknowledged the need to do just that — the Broncos put together a Week 4 game plan that appeared to make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable in the first half.

"We had a great plan," Harris said. "We've just got to finish the game, play stronger in the fourth, but the game plan was great. They definitely listened to everything I said. You love that, for sure. Joe did an excellent job coaching it. There were just a couple plays here and there that changed the game and how the game goes. We've got to make just a [few] more plays." 

Quarterback Case Keenum has his own areas where he wants to show improvement.

Asked Wednesday to single one out, he pointed to the need to cut down on his interception total.

"I've got to take care of the football better and give our team a chance to win, no matter what's going on, what the situation is [or] what the play is," Keenum said.

No matter the outside noise, the Broncos have done well to maintain perspective on this young season. Their early record is by no means an indication of what will follow. The Broncos started 4-0 in 2016 and 3-1 in 2017 — and didn't make the playoffs in either season.

Kerr thinks this year feels different in the locker room. 

"I really hate talking about last year, but I feel like this year there's more of a sense of urgency regardless of what the record says," Kerr said. "It's the first quarter of the season. There's a lot of teams that went 2-2 and ended up going deep in the playoffs. We started 3-1 last year, and look how we ended up. We're not worried. We've just got to keep chopping wood. If we keep playing football the way we played Monday night — minus a couple plays, minus a few series — we'll be in good shape."

Keenum's former team, the Minnesota Vikings, was one of those teams that started 2-2. And with Keenum at the helm, the Vikings stumbled to a 1-2 record in his first three starts after he replaced an injured Sam Bradford.

But Keenum and the Vikings found a way forward and rattled off eight straight wins with their new starting quarterback. Over his last 11 starts of the regular season, Keenum compiled 10 wins, 18 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

That start isn't a far cry from where the Broncos currently stand.

Through four games, Keenum has three touchdown passes and six interceptions — and a 2-2 record.

The question, now, is whether he can help the team make a similar push to the postseason.

Allow him to join his teammates among those hopeful that the Broncos can soon find their stride.

"I think we haven't played our best football yet, and we've had a chance to win every game," Keenum said Wednesday. "We've put ourselves in that situation. I think learning from these experiences is going to give us a lot more experience to pull back on when the games come down to December and January when they're really big-time games.

"I'm excited [with] where we're at. I'm even more excited about where we're headed."

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