ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Paxton Lynch's second start wasn't elegant, but Head Coach Gary Kubiak saw cause for optimism after reviewing the film of the Broncos' 20-10 win at Jacksonville, and that's where Monday's takeaways begin.
1. HOW LYNCH FARED
Lynch's 12-of-24 performance Sunday was not what the Broncos hoped for, particularly with some missed opportunities for deep connections with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. But he showed promise on some other plays, and had one potential long pass that he set up with his mobility go through Virgil Green's hands.
There were building blocks and teachable moments, particularly from third-down struggles. There was also a win, no turnovers and just two yards lost in sacks.
"I just think it's a guy who went out and played in his second start, I do," Kubiak said. "I've been doing this a long time, and seeing young players -- I look at the course of the game. He was really locked in to what we were doing early and on top of what we were doing early.
"As the game got longer and some other things were happening during the course of the game, now it's time to adjust, and he's still a young, raw player. But the point I made yesterday is that there are some opportunities in the game where he's got to give us a better chance with the ball."
And if Lynch can show the same accuracy on deep passes he displayed at Memphis and avoid underthrows that allow defenders to get back in the play, the entire offense can open up.
"It's really just making those plays, if you have an opportunity to do them again, make them again," Kubiak said. "Knowing that on third-and-2 with the game on the line and a seven-point lead, give Emmanuel a chance with that ball. He'll learn a lot from this game. He missed two big plays off of bootlegs that could have been touchdowns for us, but he'll learn from that."
2. KUBIAK OPTIMISTIC ABOUT LYNCH'S FUTURE
Long-term perspective is crucial in regards to Lynch, who has just two and a half regular-season games of experience to this point.
"I think this guy's got a brilliant career ahead of him," Kubiak said. "I'm really excited. We're asking a lot of him. We threw him in there against Atlanta; he got a start against Atlanta and he gets a start on the road here against Jacksonville. He's a young kid, but I'm excited about some of the things I see, and then I'm also excited about things I know we can correct that are going to help him out.
"But he's a hard worker. He's a good kid. He went in there and protected the ball [Sunday], which we needed him to do for us to win. Yeah, he can make some more plays. He knows that. I have confidence that he will."
- SECOND-HALF RUSHING OUTPUT "A CONCERN"**
Without the injured Kapri Bibbs in the second half, the Broncos' run production plummeted; after halftime they averaged just 2.0 yards per carry and couldn't muster a single first down on 14 carries.
Bibbs racked up a team-leading 49 yards on just five carries, but he sprained his ankle and did not return for the second half. The injury forced him onto injured reserve Monday, leading to the waiver claim of Justin Forsett.
"We did some good things in the first half, and in the second half, we did not at all," Kubiak said. "So obviously that's a concern.
"It comes down to just executing once again," Bibbs said. "Some guys hearing different calls, or going the wrong way, and when it comes to offense, in the one that we have, everyone has to be on point at all times, and everyone has to be on the same page, and if one person is out of whack, then it knocks the whole play off.
"When you go back and look at the film, when you see that one guy messes up, then the back or somebody has to cut back into that lane, and all of a sudden, it's filled. We've just got to do a better job executing."
A better running game would have set Lynch up for more play-action and bootleg opportunities.
"When we're [running] well, it gives us a chance to move the quarterback around a little bit," Kubiak said.
Starter Devontae Booker said that the Jaguars crowded the box in the second half, knowing the Broncos would try to sustain a ground game, but that can't be used as an excuse.
"We've still got to make plays and block those guys up," he said.
The Broncos grabbed a 20-10 win over the Jaguars behind a solid defensive performance.(Photos by Eric Bakke, unless noted)
- RAYMOND STAKES HIS CLAIM**
The Broncos wanted explosiveness from their return game. They found it with rookie Kalif Raymond, whose 19- and 22-yard punt returns in his Sunday regular-season debut were the Broncos' two longest of the season to date.
"He gave us some juice," Kubiak said. "He's the fastest guy on the field, I know that, and he looked good throughout the course of the week."
Raymond's misjudge of his first punt-return opportunity cost the Broncos 24 yards of field position when it bounced past him to the Denver 11-yard line, but with some encouragement from the sideline and some assist from the punt-return team, he quickly found his footing.
"When he touched the ball and we gave him some space, some good things happened," Kubiak said.
"I feel like I was used to it. The stage didn't feel too big, and the team made it easy for me; all I had to do was read my keys and make sure everything was right," Raymond said.
5. A DEMANDING FINAL QUARTER
If the Broncos can convert their current standing into their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, there is no doubt that they will have earned it.
Heading into Monday night, the Broncos' remaining four opponents have a 35-13 (.729) record, and include three of the only four teams with at least nine wins so far this season. It is easily the most rigorous remaining schedule of any playoff contender.
None of three teams just behind the Broncos -- Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami -- close with teams that have a collective winning percentage better than .552.
With just a one-game lead for the No. 6 seed and some potential tiebreaker disadvantages, the Broncos may not be able to absorb a slip-up. As the cliché goes, every game is like a postseason game.
"All of them are," said OLB DeMarcus Ware. "And we have to play that way."
Take a closer look at Kapri Bibbs' 13-yard run to get the Broncos in scoring position in the red zone with a frame-by-frame look from team photographer Eric Bakke.