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Hot Topics: Broncos' struggle to put teams away surfaces in loss to Ravens

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the wake of the Broncos' 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, much of the focus was directed to the final moments of the game.

After holding the Ravens to three points and fewer than 200 yards for the first three-and-a-half quarters, the Broncos' defense surrendered a 91-yard go-ahead touchdown drive in the final moments of the game.

The defense, which has allowed a score within the final two minutes of regulation in three games this season, accepted responsibility in the aftermath of the loss. Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, though, made it clear Monday that the Broncos' offense must do more to support the other side of the ball.

"We have to score more points," Hackett said. "We can't put them in that position."

Hackett's assessment is correct; the Broncos should never have faced that situation. The Broncos held the lead for more than 38 minutes of Sunday's loss, but they were never able to build an advantage of more than one possession.

The Broncos' largest lead was six points, and it left the door open for the Ravens.

In all, the Broncos possessed the ball with the lead on seven drives on Sunday afternoon. Denver was able to score on just one of those drives, and the Broncos managed just a field goal on that possession.

Denver certainly had its chances. In the fourth quarter, a deep pass to Greg Dulcich pushed the ball to near midfield. Facing first-and-10 from the Baltimore 47-yard line, the Broncos then lost a yard and were forced to punt.

"We've got to score more points," Hackett said. "We had a couple of explosive plays. I thought we were backed up a couple times. I thought the offense did a great job getting it out. It's hard to score from that long of a field, but we got it to the 50[-yard line] and then we were in an advantageous part of the field and we couldn't finish. We got the turnover on the 40-yard line. We have to get at least a first down or two to get some more points, and we didn't. Across the board, that's the fundamentals, all the different things that we continually talk about on offense, whether it's attacking our landmarks, whether it's running a better route, all those different things."

Those struggles were not limited to Week 13, as Denver has found it difficult to put teams away. 

Against the Colts, the Broncos held the ball and the lead on eight possessions; they scored just three points in those opportunities.

Hosting the Raiders in Week 11, the Broncos possessed the ball with the lead on five occasions. Again, they managed just one field goal.

Over the course of the 2022 season, the Broncos have held the ball and the lead on 34 possessions, excluding kneel downs. Denver has scored just seven times — and the team has scored just one touchdown while holding the lead. That rate of 20.6 percent is nearly eight percentage points worse than the overall season average of 28.1 percent (39 of 139 total possessions).

On a select few of these possessions, the Broncos played conservatively and attempted to run out the clock. Still, the overall point remains: Denver has been unable to dispatch teams when given the opportunities.

Instead, those teams have stuck around — and in the case of Sunday's game, it came back to bite the Broncos.

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