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Next-day Notebook: 'Critical errors at critical times' costing Denver in close losses

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After another one-possession loss Sunday, several Broncos players repeated what they have said on several occasions this season: They feel that they are better than their team's record.

But at 3-5, Head Coach Vance Joseph doesn't necessarily agree with that notion.

"You are who you are," Joseph said Monday. "In the first [half] of the season we're 3-5. We've won three games and we've lost five."

Though Joseph believes his football team is defined by its record so far, he does know that his group of players are close. In each of the five losses, a handful of important plays not going Denver's way have determined the outcome.

"I told our guys about five minutes ago, 'Yeah, we're 3-5, but I can take 15-20 plays in those five losses [combined] that are critical plays that we didn't make," Joseph said. "That's the reason we're 3-5. But we are 3-5. We're not better than that right now. We're hoping to be better than that in the second half of the season, the third and fourth quarter [of the season], but right now we are 3-5."

The team's lack of wins doesn't stem from a lack of effort, Joseph emphasized.

"Watching our five losses, guys are playing hard, guys want to win," Joseph said. "Are we making plays? Absolutely. But we are making critical errors, and at critical times of the games."

Joseph believes the responsibility to begin turning things around in the second half of the season falls on all members of the team. One player who will be a key in righting the ship is quarterback Case Keenum, who tossed two touchdowns against the Chiefs but also had two turnovers.

"Our team and Case [are] very similar," Joseph said. "We play good enough football to win and then we've got these five critical plays a game that we don't play well and we end up losing to good teams. He understands he has to get better in those areas. ... I think we're all 3-5. He's a 3-5 quarterback right now. I'm a 3-5 coach. We're a 3-5 football team. Can I coach better? Yes. Can he play better? Yes. Can his teammates play better? Absolutely. We're all 3-5."

The penalty problem

The Broncos had 10 penalties for 83 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday. In the Broncos' five losses, they have averaged nearly eight penalties per contest.

"In every big game that we've played, the penalties have killed us, especially the offensive holdings," Joseph said. "We lost 10 points against the Rams just strictly on penalties. And yesterday we lost three 20-plus-yard plays because of penalties. That's us. We have to fix that. We can't complain about the officials and the half-and-half calls. Everyone has half-and-half calls, but we have to play cleaner, and we haven't done it in the five losses. Again, we have to play better football, especially in the critical moments."

Against the Chiefs, only one starting offensive lineman — right tackle Billy Turner — wasn't called for holding. In one of the crucial junctures of the game, left tackle Garett Bolles was beat by Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford. Even after Bolles held him, Ford got to Keenum, forcing a fumble.

"It's all technique," said Joseph regarding fixing the holdings. "It's all technique. [Bolles] has to play better in technique. ... Not just Garett, but a lot of us."

Offensive holding wasn't the only issue, though. Bradley Roby was called for defensive passing interference with Kansas City facing a second-and-19. Joseph thought his cornerback had good position and didn't need to commit the penalty to prevent a possible completion.

"We can't bail teams out by having penalties," Joseph said. "We're not good enough for that."

"We want to win now and in the future"

As the trade deadline approaches, rumors about several Broncos players changing teams have emerged. Though Joseph has acknowledged those rumors and has talked to several players involved — including veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — they do not change his focus, which is now on the Texans. The responsibilities of the coaching staff are very different than those of the front office, Joseph said.

"My focus is on ... Tuesday's game plan, Wednesday's practice and the Texans on Sunday," Joseph said.

Even with the Broncos being mentioned as "sellers" at the trade deadline, which is 2:00 p.m. MDT on Tuesday, Joseph thinks any possible changes are only to move the team in the right direction.

"Whatever we're doing here in the front office is to make us better," Joseph said. "We want to win now and win in the future, obviously. Whatever [President of Football Operations/General Manager] John [Elway]'s going to do between now and tomorrow at two o'clock is to make us better. I'm on board. But my focus is the team meetings, the game plans, the practices."

Injury updates

Joseph provided updates to the two players who suffered injuries against the Chiefs and did not return to the game.

Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall is dealing with knee soreness, and he is still sore as of Monday, Joseph said, but he "should be fine."

Wide receiver/punt returner Isaiah McKenzie suffered a hip injury and is also fine, Joseph said.

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