ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Despite a difficult 48-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills that ensured the Broncos' fourth consecutive losing season, Head Coach Vic Fangio is optimistic that brighter days are ahead in Denver.
"I think at times we've played good football in all three phases," Fangio said Monday. "We haven't done it enough together in enough games to translate into more wins, but I see a bunch of young players improving each and every week. I see a bunch of guys in the mid-parts of their career still improving each and every week, and I think this team has a bright future."
Fangio can point to a lengthy list of contributors in both of those categories, whether it's young, emerging stars like Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant or improving unheralded veterans like Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris. The Broncos also have a core of highly drafted veterans that includes players like Justin Simmons, Garett Bolles and Bradley Chubb.
Fangio is hopeful that the Broncos will be able to turn some of that individual improvement into wins over the final few weeks. Whether it's from Drew Lock or any other player, the metric Fangio is most concerned with is the final score.
"I just want to see winning football," Fangio said of Lock. "That's all we're here to do. … We all have to play good enough to win football games, and that's all three phases. That's all 11 guys that are out there at any given time. We've proven when we play well enough and coach well enough that we can do that. We just need to see it more often from everybody."
If the Broncos can string together two wins over division rivals to end the year, they can still match last year's 7-9 record. That would give the Broncos three wins in their final four games and perhaps give Denver something on which to build as the team enters 2021.
JEUDY'S LACK OF TOUCHES
Jeudy has just four catches over the previous four games, and his catch rate is just 45.1 percent on the season. One of those previous four games was against the Saints, when the Broncos played without a true quarterback, but he has posted just 66 yards since late November after a highly productive middle of the season.
"His numbers haven't been what he would like or anybody would like, but he's made some big plays with those catches," Fangio said. … "Jerry's working hard, playing good, the ball just hasn't gotten there as much as we would like and as much as he would like at this point, recently."
Jeudy ranks sixth among rookie receivers in receiving yards and ninth in receptions with 41 catches for 655 yards and two scores.
He made one catch in Week 15 against the Bills, but he also had a third-down drop. Second-round pick KJ Hamler also dropped a short pass Saturday.
"I think both of them have good hands," Fangio said. "Occasionally you're going to have some drops, but obviously just repetition and catching a million balls in the offseason, during the season, practice — all of that will help improve your hands. But I think both of them have shown that they belong in this league and will be good players in this league for a long time."
The Broncos ranked 30th in red-zone offense as they entered Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13 to face the Chiefs.
Three weeks later, they've moved up to 21st after scoring touchdowns on each of their last five red-zone possessions. The Broncos were 2-of-2 against the Chiefs, 2-of-2 against the Panthers and 1-of-1 vs. the Bills.
"That's definitely something to build off," Fangio said. "As we all know, we started off not as well in the red zone during the season, but as you noted, it's been better of late and that needs to continue, and I think that indicates growth. One of the true ways people measure quarterbacks at times is in the red zone and on third down. We've been much better in the red zone of late — now, we've run the ball too, which has helped, and made some plays running the ball. We've had some different run-pass options with Drew down there, which he executed very well. It definitely does indicate some growing and some improvement in that area. That's vital for us to keep improving."