ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph and the Broncos' defense looked to respond from a tough start to the season, there was an undeniable sense of urgency.
Through four weeks, the team ranked at the bottom of the league in many statistical categories — and Joseph stressed the need for improvement.
There was, however, no panic.
The flashes of good existed — including a game-changing strip-sack that spurred a win in Chicago — but the Broncos were still in search of more consistency.
Yet while Denver looked for improvement, Joseph and Co. did not overreact to the early results.
"It was early still," Joseph said. "It wasn't good obviously. But you can't panic. Just keep coaching — that's what we do. It's more about thinking [rather] than being emotional and finding the reasons why we weren't playing good. That's my job. It's me. I'm a guy that's pretty laid-back anyway, but as a coach when things are not going right, it's my job to kind of find ways to make it better and to explain vs. trying to dictate or to coach with fear. That never works. Finding ways to improve the defense quickly, that was my goal."
That improvement has indeed come, as the Broncos have taken massive steps forward in recent weeks. Over the last three games, the Broncos have improved in nearly every statistical category. After allowing 36.2 points per game in the first five weeks, Denver has allowed 15 points per game over the last three contests. The Broncos' total defense (450.6 YPG to 331.3 YPG), rushing defense (187.6 YPG to 98.3 YPG) and opposing passing rating (124.6 to 80.9) have also improved over the last three games.
"It's happening," Joseph said of the improvement. "It's not totally done yet. It's going to be a nice challenge on Monday night, but it's getting better."
There were earlier signs of the defensive success, as the Broncos held the Jets to a single touchdown and 0-of-5 in the red zone in Week 5. The consistency, though, came as the Broncos made several lineup changes — including inserting Ja'Quan McMillian at nickel and cornerback Fabian Moreau opposite Pat Surtain II. Safety Justin Simmons and outside linebacker Baron Browning also returned from injury to bolster the unit.
In the last three games, the Broncos' defense has forced six turnovers and limited Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to one touchdown across two games.
"It takes time to find the right players and find the right scheme for your players," Joseph said. "It's all about players first. Obviously coming back and keeping some things they did well last year and bringing some things in, it took time to kind of mesh it all — the communication and finding the right players and having some guys down for the first couple weeks, that hurt us also. Again, no excuses. You have to win games. You stick with it and you hope it gets better and it's getting better now. But you continue to press forward and continue to find ways to improve each week quickly. You look up and it's 10 games in and you're improving."
The Broncos' challenge doesn't get any easier, as they face Josh Allen and the Bills' fifth-ranked scoring offense.
"We will have a plan of attack for him and how we rush him will be important," Joseph said. "It is a top-five offense in a lot of areas: points, yards, red zone and third downs. It's been three out of four weeks of playing special offenses. It's a lovely challenge for us, and I am looking forward to it."