ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With three losses in five games, the Broncos aren't reeling -- but there is some pressure.
They trail the Raiders by a game in the AFC West, and the Chiefs by a half-game. Their opponents this Sunday, the New Orleans Saints, have regained momentum and are one of just two teams to average at least 30 points a game, increasing the pressure on an offense that has gone three-and-out on nearly half of its 51 possessions over the last four games.
There is pressure. But there's a difference between feeling pressure and being affected by it.
1. BRONCOS, SIEMIAN "ARE NOT PRESSING"
When pressure crosses over into pressing, then you've got problems that will affect your play.
But quarterback Trevor Siemian earned the captain's patch last week in part because of his unruffled demeanor. When the Broncos appeared to be drowning in a silver-and-black sea, Siemian steadied the ship and drove them to a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Norwood.
One of his tasks this week is to set the same kind of calm, cool example.
"I think everybody is trying to be themselves as best as they can be. They're not pressing," Siemian said. "I think pressing would be the wrong thing to do right now."
New Orleans' explosive offense might force the Broncos into a scenario where they need 30-plus points to win; pressing would make it nearly impossible for the Broncos to match that output.
"We're close," Siemian said. "We've just got to shore a few things up and get going that way."
- SIEMIAN STILL FUNCTIONING WITH SORE SHOULDER**
Although Siemian is able to make all the throws -- including deep strikes to Jordan Norwood, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas in the last few weeks -- Siemian is still dealing with soreness in the shoulder that was injured against Tampa Bay on Oct. 2.
"He needs this break we have coming next week," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's pushed through it and done a hell of a job from that standpoint. Obviously a good break will help him, too."
Siemian has not been limited in practice or games, but admits the "really hard" hits bother his shoulder the most.
"It's weird, you'll get hit sometimes and you'll feel good and then sometimes you say to yourself, 'That kind of hurt,'" he said, "but that's part of the deal."
- ON OFFENSE, IT'S "BACK TO BASICS"**
"We've got to calm down and do what we do best and go back to basics," said Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison. "[That] is basically what we're trying to do."
But trying and actually doing are two different things. It has been a struggle for the offense not just in recent weeks, but in the last two seasons; in that span, the Broncos rank 23rd in yardage per play, 23rd in yardage per pass play and 19th in average per carry. On a per-game basis, the Broncos rank 19th in passing offense, 21st in rushing offense and 21st in total offense the last two seasons.
"It doesn't seem to be sinking in in some parts," Dennison said. "And it could be little things; it could be big things. There's a multitude of things and facets that are happening -- technique and tracks. It's everybody that we've got to get it right."
But that also starts with getting quick first downs, and not going three-and-out four times before finally moving the chains, as was the case last Sunday in Oakland.
"We've got to stay on the field and get in a little rhythm and help those guys out and run the ball, otherwise you're going to see some of that unbalance that you kind of see now," Siemian said.
And when plays are there, the Broncos have to capitalize.
"There's a lot of [plays] that are pluses, that we're not gaining," Dennison said.
- EXPANDING THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE TIGHT ENDS**
The Broncos have seven gains of at least 25 yards the last two weeks. Virgil Green has accounted for two of them, with a 31-yard grab in the fourth quarter against San Diego and a 26-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter against Oakland last week.
"I think Virgil has shown when we're able to get him the ball, he makes some plays, too," Kubiak said. "Hopefully we can continue to do that. I think Virgil is working hard and becoming a really good player, a consistent player."
The Broncos haven't gotten as much pass-catching production out of their tight ends as they had initially hoped, but with Green showing his open-field capabilities and Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby getting more comfortable in the scheme, there could be more opportunities.
"If we can get more 12 personnel [one running back, two tight ends] and mix things up for defenses, I think that's just another club in the bag that will be good for us," Siemian said.
Those formations might be essential if the Broncos limit Andy Janovich's work as he recovers from a hand injury; Janovich played one snap last Sunday as he continues to work with a club cast on his hand.
Kubiak said that he hoped to get Derby more snaps. He wants to continue to get Heuerman some work; the second-year tight end had 12 snaps in Oakland.
"I think A.J.'s doing a lot of things in practice really well," Siemian said. "He's caught up super fast. I'm really impressed by how he's caught up.
The Broncos moved inside to begin preparation for the trip to New Orleans to face the Saints. (photos by Gabriel Christus)
- WOLFE ON THE MEND**
Defensive end Derek Wolfe said he expects to miss at least two weeks and "at the most" four because of the elbow injury he suffered in Oakland on Sunday night.
"It's nothing too serious," he said. "It's not something that I can't bounce back from real quick. I'll be fine. It just needs to rest. It's one of those injuries where you just have to let it rest.
"The more you use it; it's going to make it worse. If I just rest it a couple weeks, I'll be fine."
Wolfe said he will have to wear a brace on his elbow when he returns to action.
"Right now, it's literally just resting," he said. "I've got to rest it and let the scar tissue build up, and I'll be fine."