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Next-Day Notebook: Destroying the opponent's blueprint

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the visitors locker room after a 27-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. shared his thoughts on how the Broncos could avoid future losses.

“We’ve got to disguise better as a team,” Harris said. “Try to confuse them. Try not to give them easy looks. So, we’ve got to move around and try to do whatever we can to disguise [the coverages].”

Head Coach Vance Joseph seemed to at least partially agree with the gist of Harris’ comments.

“Some of the problems could be that, but the bottom line is we’ve obviously got to play better, especially in man-to-man situations,” Joseph said Monday. “We’ve got to coach better and help those guys play more shell defense on certain downs. We can coach and play better. I’m not concerned about the comments, because Chris is playing good football and … he wants to win. I have no problem with what he’s saying.”

The Broncos, though, didn’t always have the opportunity to disguise their coverages on Sunday against the Ravens. After Baltimore started the game with traditional wide receiver splits, John Harbaugh and his team quickly cut down the distance between their wide receivers and used pre-snap motions make Denver’s job harder.

“Sometimes teams trap you into certain formations where you have to show your hand quicker,” Joseph said. “We’re getting a bunch of reduced splits where guys who are press are playing more off, and it brings your safeties down, so it shows right now, single high. When those things happen, we just have to play through them and play. We can help those guys with more looks and help them with more coverage packages.”

Joseph has been involved in every defensive meeting, and he said Monday that won’t stop. In those meetings, the Broncos set their defensive game plan and come up with a call sheet. And as the team moves forward, those meetings will also be used to find a way to mess up the “blueprint on how to soften our coverage,” as Joseph said Monday.

“Those kids are trying and they’re competing, but it’s our job to make their lives easier,” Joseph said. “So we will. We will do that, and that’s through the calls we make and that’s [through] how we game plan. Obviously we thought going into that game that we could really cover those guys up. With the normal splits, we did. With the cut splits and the motion, we didn’t. I think we have to have a better plan moving forward to help our guys. As they adjust, we have to adjust even faster. We have to coach better, and we will.”

ACCEPTING THE PENALTIES

After watching the film, Joseph seemed convinced that the referees made the correct calls on two of the most critical penalties of the game.

The first came on Justin Simmons’ field-goal block, which appeared to end with Harris carrying the ball 58 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. But Domata Peko Sr. — even though the refs mistakenly called the penalty on Billy Turner — was whistled for a block in the back penalty, and the ball came back to the Baltimore 49-yard line.

“Peko had his hands on his back, even though it was 20 yards behind the play [and] it was called very late,” Joseph said. “He had his hands on his back. So again, we have to own it. That’s what they saw, that’s what they called, and really, when I watched the tape, it was a good call.”

The Broncos were penalized again a few moments later when Phillip Lindsay was flagged after jumping late on a scrum that formed after Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Keenum. The referees judged that Lindsay threw a punch, which was grounds to disqualify the rookie running back.

While Joseph said he didn’t see a punch thrown, he acknowledged that Lindsay broke the rules by jumping onto the pile late.

“I couldn’t see whether he threw a punch or not, but I saw him dive into the pile, which is illegal,” Joseph said. “He can’t do it. There were three guys that dove into the pile: [Marlon] Humphrey for them — he was the first guy — then [Ron] Leary dove into the pile, then Phillip dove into the pile. It should’ve been three penalties on all three of those guys, because that’s against the rules. But I didn’t see a punch being thrown. I couldn’t tell if a punch was thrown.”

Joseph, though, wants to see his team take responsibility for the penalties to ensure they don’t happen again.

“[Lindsay] said he didn’t throw a punch, but we have to own the penalties,” Joseph said. “We can’t talk around the penalties. We have to own them. They called them, so we have to own them.”

MANAGING THE CLOCK

As time in the second quarter wound down, Joseph wanted to be aggressive. The Broncos had just wasted a prime scoring opportunity after a wild sequence — one that included a blocked field goal, strip sack and ejection — ended with a punt. So when the Ravens took over with 1:47 to play on their own 14-yard line, Joseph aimed to get the ball back for his offense.

After a first-down throw went for just 4 yards, Joseph called a timeout. Baltimore picked up a first down on the next play, so Joseph let the clock run. After the Broncos sacked Flacco on an ensuing third down, though, Joseph called the team’s final timeout of the half.

With 51 seconds remaining, the Broncos took over at their own 15-yard line — and that’s where they ran into problems. A first-down Devontae Booker run went for no yards, and the Ravens called a timeout of their own. Then Case Keenum was sacked, and the Ravens called another timeout. When an open Courtland Sutton dropped a pass on third-and-10, the Broncos were forced to punt. Baltimore then took advantage of the short punt and drove 16 yards in 22 seconds to kick a field goal and extend the lead to six points.

“That’s on me,” Joseph said Monday. “I could’ve bled [the clock] out, but I was thinking, ‘Let’s get these points back.’ We just lost three points by having penalties, so I was being overaggressive. In hindsight, that was wrong. I should’ve bled it out and got to the half [at] 17-14. It’s our ball coming out. But I chose to call timeouts [and] get the ball back. We’re backed up and we missed a second-and-10 and the third down, we had a drop. And we had a bad punt."

“All that being said, that’s on me. You go on the road, it’s raining, they’re going to have us backed up, so I should’ve just bled it out and got to halftime 17-14, not 20-14. That’s totally on me.”

STRONGER IN THE SECONDARY

The Broncos should be healthier in the secondary when Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs arrive for a “Monday Night Football” matchup.

Joseph said cornerback Tramaine Brock has a left groin strain but that MRI results indicated he should be ready to play against Kansas City. Joseph expects Brock to return to practice either Wednesday or Thursday as the Broncos prepare for the Chiefs.

Cornerback Adam Jones should also be ready to play, Joseph said. Jones missed the last week of practice and Sunday’s game against Baltimore with a thigh injury.

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