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Next-Day Notebook: Broncos feel 'close' to success, focused on ending season strong

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' playoff chances for this season all but ended on Sunday in a 17-13 loss to the Raiders, but Head Coach Vic Fangio said he believes his team is close to being able to return to the postseason.

"I think we have a good group of players, and we've done a good job at acquiring them since [General Manager] George [Paton] has been here — and he will continue to do that," Fangio said Monday. "And we're close. These last three losses — they're all losses, it doesn't really matter what the score is — but they've all been close games and have come down to the wire. We just need to find a way to get those turned in our favor."

Before the Broncos' loss to the Raiders, Denver dropped a 22-9 decision to Kansas City in Week 13 and a 15-10 contest to the Bengals in Week 15. Across the entire season, the Broncos are just 1-4 in one-possession games.

"We're extremely close, man," Garett Bolles said. "… We just had to win yesterday, and we're right where we need to be. And we just didn't get the job done."

Over the past several weeks, the Broncos' offense has struggled to take advantage of strong defensive performances in the team's losses. Against the Chiefs, Bengals and Raiders, the Broncos have averaged just 10.7 points per game. In the team's Week 16 loss to the Raiders, Denver totaled eight first downs, rushed for 18 total yards and were 1-of-10 on third down. Fangio noted that the Broncos "didn't win the line of scrimmage" against the Raiders on either side of the football. For the team's offense, that led to plenty of third-and-long scenarios.

"These last three games have been tight, tough losses," Fangio said. "They've been low-scoring affairs, but I do think it indicates the fight and the competitiveness in this team. Have we scored enough points in those losses? No, we haven't. But we have total faith in our players that we're going to get this turned offensively in these next two weeks."

The Broncos' offensive struggles — which also included several drops — made it hard for Fangio to evaluate the performance of Drew Lock, who made his first start of the season.

"Any time you lose your running game, especially for us [when] that's what we've done best this year, makes it harder on the quarterback," Fangio said. "There's no doubt about that. I think it's hard to give a great assessment of Drew's play yesterday, because as a whole offensively, we just didn't play good enough. It makes it hard to assess the quarterback position. I thought he made some good throws. We had a chance on some of them. We didn't quite make them. I wasn't terribly disappointed in his performance, either. Obviously it could be better."

Lock finished 15-of-22 for 153 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and an 87.9 rating. With Teddy Bridgewater still in the concussion protocol, Lock could start again this Sunday against the Chargers.

As the Broncos turn their attention forward, Fangio said he's not concerned with the swirling speculation about his future with the team.

"I don't," Fangio said when asked if he thinks about his job status. "I know you think that's a standard answer, but for a lot of reasons, I do not worry about it. Those reasons are personal to me, but do I acknowledge that it's certainly out there and could happen? Absolutely. But do I worry about it? I absolutely do not worry about it for many, many reasons."

Fangio said he "absolutely" believed that he and his staff deserved to return for a fourth year in Denver, but he said he's not focused on how many games the Broncos would need to win for that to become a reality.

"We're going to do everything we can to win this next game," Fangio said. "I'm not worried about, 'Do we have to win the next two to secure the job?' That's totally not in my frame of thought right now. We're going to do anything and everything we can to win this game this week."

The Broncos will head back on the road to face the Chargers, and Fangio will look to improve to 5-1 against the Chargers during his tenure in Denver. As the Broncos look to spoil the Chargers' own playoff hopes, Fangio said he wants his players to stay together.

"These guys have fought and competed all year long," Fangio said. "They've played the game to the best of their abilities the right way. They've prepared good. And that's what I anticipate and am looking for us to continue these last two weeks."

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