ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --By Thursday, the Broncos will be back on their normal schedule for the run-up to a regular-season game. The last two days were about cleaning up and fixing the errors that plagued them during two losses in a five-day stretch that knocked them back into a tie for first place with the Oakland Raiders.
It is obvious that no one wants to lose; it is equally obvious that defeats can be teachable moments that jar a potential title contender back on course.
"Losing definitely puts you back in reality," running back C.J. Anderson said. "You're not Superman or Achilles. You're going to lose some games. It definitely sets you back to reality, and it's up to us to go out there and find a way to win a football game.
"We know the last two weeks has not been our A-game effort to win football games, and we've just got to go out there and play our A-game."
That's what the Broncos tried to get from last week -- and from their meetings and practices after a weekend respite following the 21-13 loss at San Diego.
1. FIXING THE GROUND GAME
In Weeks 1 and 2, the Broncos ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yardage per game (141.0), sixth in first-down rate (one first down every 3.75 carries) and seventh in yardage per rush (4.70).
In Weeks 3-6, the numbers were grim by comparison -- 28th in rushing yardage per game (77.25) and 27th in both first-down rate (one every 5.28 carries) and yardage per rush (3.25).
"The last four weeks, you definitely don't want to put what we put on tape -- especially the last two weeks," Anderson said. "It's a collective thing."
And while the holes aren't always there, some of the yardage being left on the table belongs to the running backs -- something that Anderson readily admits.
"Us as playmakers, we have to find a way to make more plays," he said. "Myself, my ability to step out of tackles -- I have to find a way to step out of more tackles just to make those big plays."
Anderson also knows that to get more and better run calls from Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison, he must do his part to create big plays when the holes are there.
"We've got to give them the confidence to go back to that run, even if it it was a 2-yard carry," Anderson said. "We've got to give them the confidence that the next carry can go the way we want it to."
Before a Wednesday off, the Broncos continued to make corrections to prepare for a potential rebound against Houston on Monday night. (photos by Eric Bakke)
- ACCOUNTABILITY STARTS WITH THE MAN IN THE MIRROR**
The common thread of players' meetings with coaches on Monday was a willingness for each player to point the finger of blame at himself for something he could have done better.
"It wasn't the fact that I was on [Demaryius Thomas], or D.T. was on me; we're more hard on ourselves and owning up to the mistakes on film, and letting my teammates know, 'Hey, D.T., I should have done this for you,' or, 'Hey, Max [Garcia], I could have helped you out there,'" Anderson said.
"It's us criticizing ourselves in front of our teammates that gets us moving."
The self-grading was harsh -- to the point that "we probably hurt a couple of guys' feelings," Anderson admitted.
"If you can own your mistakes and see your mistakes, then it's up to you to correct them," Anderson said. "We now get that opportunity to do that."
3. "COMMUNICATION" IS AN ISSUE FOR OFFENSE
Tight end Virgil Green pegged that as a reason for the offense's struggles, particularly up front in run blocking and pass protection.
"I just think for the majority watching film, it was communication," Green said. "Guys aren't on the same page. In the first four games, when we were communicating well, things were happening well. We've just got to get back to that and stick to it."
Communication and cohesion often go hand-in-hand, and because the Broncos haven't been able to build the latter because of injuries, the former has been problematic.
"I think that may have a little bit to do with it," Green said. "You've got some different guys out there that may not communicate in certain situations like the other guys will. Having us back out there, we know what we can expect. I can communicate with the tackles and tell them exactly what I need to hear, and things like that, they respond to that."
- HOW IS COMMUNICATION FIXED?**
"It's in practice. It's in the meeting rooms. Understanding all the different looks that are thrown at us, and knowing your job, and not panicking," Green said.
Without proper preparation, one can't make the split-second decisions they need to make in order to make a play work. But as Green noted, the players have all the looks and possibilities given to them during the week; it's just a matter of practicing and studying better so they can be prepared to apply what they've learned at a split-second's notice.
"A lot of times, things happen so fast that you just have to make a decision," Green said. "[The coaches] give us these plays with all the looks, and there's so many different things, and you have to know that stuff regardless.
"It's never an excuse to say you didn't understand it. You've got it in the book.
"So as players, we just have to hammer down and understand those fine, minute details with different kinds of looks we get."
Only wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has been on the Broncos' offense longer than Green, so he knows he's in a position to help his teammates get up to speed.
"I know everything that's happened based on watching film, and also based on being in the league for so long," he said. "So I know I can help guys out there, in talking on the sideline and preparing guys for when we go back out there and we see those looks again."
- GETTING THE HOT TOPIC OUT OF THE WAY**
One advantage of the extended week is that it seems like all of the questions about former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler could be exhausted before the team gets into full-tilt preparations on Thursday.
Even players who will not face off directly against Osweiler, such as Anderson, received questions they were eager to deflect.
"I don't want to sound rude, but Brock Osweiler ain't got nothing to do with C.J. Anderson," the fourth-year running back said.
When pressed further, Anderson was even more forceful.
"I'm going to say this right now in the most polite way possible: C.J. Anderson vs. Brock Osweiler will never -- in the history of NFL football -- happen," he said.
Of course, Anderson versus the Houston Texans' defense will, and while the Texans rank 29th against the run, they are one of the league's best at generating pressure on the opposing quarterback, putting the onus on Anderson and Devontae Booker to respond in pass protection.
"[Defensive Coordinator] Romeo Crennel, he likes to bring the heat a lot," Anderson said. "[Jadeveon] Clowney is playing really well, [Whitney] Mercilus is playing really well and [Brian] Cushing is back and playing really well. They're definitely disruptive up front."