DENVER — The Broncos are back at home in Week 2, and they'll aim to secure their first win of the season to even their record at 1-1.
After a one-point loss in Week 1, Denver will look to finish the job against Washington.
"You guys have heard me talk about confidence," Head Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "You win a tough, close game, and pretty soon you get used to winning close games. I told [the team] afterwards, '… In our league, most of these games finished within a touchdown of each other.' Those are just the facts in our league. When you get into the fourth quarter — when we watched the end of all these games — somebody is in a two-minute [drill] to win, or somebody is defending a two-minute to win. It is what it is, but it's important to understand that we're going to be in a lot of these close games and the fine line of winning and losing is critical.
"… Sometimes they don't start out or finish the way you expect, but as you're adjusting and as you're seeing the type of game that's being played, understanding how to win that one. Does that come from experience? Yes. Is that a prerequisite that you have an experienced team? No. Our next opportunity is this week against Washington."
In a matchup with the Commanders, Denver will face a stiff test against one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL and a young quarterback in Sam Howell who has playmaking ability.
The Broncos showed plenty of potential — particularly on offense — in their first showing under Payton. In Week 2, they'll aim to take the next step and secure a win in a game that could be critical to their playoff hopes.
Since the playoffs expanded to include three wild-card teams in 2020, just one of 23 teams to start a season 0-2 has rebounded to play in the postseason.
"There's always a sense of urgency," quarterback Russell Wilson said Wednesday. "Every matchup you play in the National Football League, you want to be able to win them. We've got to treat every game as a championship game, because that's what it is. We play in a great division, and we're looking forward to just winning one game at a time. The sense of urgency with Coach Payton is always high, [and] with all of us players [it] is always high."
Payton's history shows an 0-1 start, though, is far from an indication that a season is without promise. On three occasions in New Orleans, Payton's teams responded from an 0-1 start to win at least 11 games — including a pair of seasons with 13 regular-season wins.
The first four weeks, we're in this urgent race to improve, so hopefully that's the case," Payton said Friday. "I think it's critical. … You are in this race to get better in the first quarter pole of the season."
On Sunday against Washington, the Broncos will aim to earn a much-needed victory.
STAT TO KNOW:
During Ron Rivera's tenure in Washington, the Commanders hold a .737 winning percentage when they win the turnover battle. And as Payton mentioned this week, that's a hallmark of Rivera-led teams, dating back to their NFC South battles between the Saints and Panthers.
"They're disciplined," Payton said Wednesday. "They're outstanding when they win the turnover differential. We went through those numbers today. We did [his] whole career — Carolina and Washington. Their record when they win the turnover margin is pretty remarkable. They've always been tough and physical. We had a history of really, really tough games against Carolina and more recently at Washington."
Contrastingly, the Commanders are just 5-15 when they lose the turnover battle.
A week ago, Washington bucked the odds as it won the game despite losing the turnover battle. Still, Denver's chances of earning a victory should greatly increase if the team can stay on the correct side of the turnover ledger. In Week 1, the Broncos were one of just nine teams to avoid turning the ball over.
The Broncos will surely want to pressure Howell and the Commanders, as well. Howell was sacked six times in Week 1, which may suggest Denver could rebound from an opening week performance in which the Broncos were unable to sack Jimmy Garoppolo.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Denver's O-line vs. Washington's defensive front
According to the NFL's Next-Gen Stats, the Broncos' offensive line ranked first in the NFL in pressure rate allowed in Week 1. The Broncos allowed pressure at just a 17.1 percent rate, compared to the 39.5 percent league average.
Against a dangerous Washington front that includes first-round picks in Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, the Broncos' offensive line must again hold up in pass protection.
As Payton explained, however, the front creates problems on more than just passing downs.
"They create a lot of minus plays," Payton said Wednesday. "Just looking at the cutups, you'll see second-and-12s. I'm not even talking about rushing the passer. Just within the framework of the run game, they're really active, and they're athletic. All of those guys have had great college careers. A lot of them are first-round draft picks that are playing well. The defense kind of feeds off that. They're a handful. You have to look closely at what you want to do in the running game, and then, certainly in the protections, as well."
ONE BIG QUESTION:
What will Jerry Jeudy provide for Denver's offense in his return to the field?
The Broncos were without perhaps their top receiving threat in Week 1, but Jerry Jeudy will make his season debut against Washington on Sunday.
A dynamic player, Jeudy was among the best receivers in the league in the final few games of 2022. He posted two 100-yard games in the final three weeks and ranked fourth in the NFL in receiving yards per game over the final five weeks of the year.
Jeudy will look to continue that momentum in Week 2 and help bolster a Denver offense that recorded just two plays of at least 20 yards in the season opener.
"He's a great route-runner," Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi said Thursday. "You feel really good when he's matched up man-to-man, so when you recognize that, [he's] someone you look to early as a quarterback. [He's] a guy that consistently can get separation. The more receivers that you have that can win those one-on-one matchups, the easier it is. It'll definitely be good to have him back."
If Jeudy can turn in a performance that's comparable to how he played at the end of 2022, Denver's offense should be able to find success despite being without tight end Greg Dulcich.