ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Two wins in December will do nothing to change the Broncos' January destination; an eight-game losing streak doomed the season.
But as the Broncos count down to their first game in Washington since 2009, they do so with renewed confidence and spirit. It's amazing what two wins by double-digit margins can do.
"It's been a little easier," inside linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "Everybody is a little more upbeat, a little more optimistic. We know we can win games. We know what type of team we are, and we've just got to go out there and put it on the field, put it on tape."
In the past two weeks, a stout defense, persistent ground game and efficient passing attack have allowed the Broncos to do just that.
"We have a chance to go undefeated in December," running back C.J. Anderson said. "I think that would be huge for us and this roster. We have a chance to win out and go 7-9, which is definitely not acceptable around here, but it's going to acceptable for the situation that we put ourselves through losing eight straight."
Before the wins over the Jets and Colts, "it was getting pretty dark and gloomy coming into work every day," quarterback Brock Osweiler said.
"Obviously, we're not in the playoffs," he continued. "As Denver Broncos, you play to win Super Bowls and nothing short of that. We're obviously very disappointed, but just to go out there and get some wins, get a good taste in our mouths -- it's been good these past two weeks. Hopefully we can finish on a high note [with] this last two."
What are the keys to getting a third consecutive win?
- Continue establishing the run**
The ability to stay close or break in front early has helped the Broncos continue committing to their ground game in their two recent wins, but overall it is hard to ignore the Broncos' undefeated record this season when they are able to run more often than they pass.
The ground game doesn't simply operate in a vacuum, however, and its effectiveness set up some completions last week, as the need to account for the run forced Indianapolis' linebackers and safeties to hesitate before dropping into coverage, leading to some open targets.
"I think we want to be balanced and if we can control the line of scrimmage, we can make the defense have to defend both and not just one aspect," Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "Let's keep that going."
- Don't let Kirk Cousins dictate the game**
Despite the loss of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Jordan Reed to season-ending injuries, Cousins has remained one of the league's most efficient quarterbacks under pressure. That said, when he avoids sacks, he is highly efficient; in eight games since 2014 in which he has not been sacked, he has posted a passer rating of better than 100.0 six times.
"He gets the ball out pretty fast," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "He can make all the throws. I think one of the best things he can do is run. He can run pretty fast. That poses a challenge for us, for sure."
3. Limit giveaways
It's a key to the game that will not go away. The only touchdown the Broncos have allowed in the last two games came off of a turnover that gave the Colts possession at the 50-yard line in the first quarter last week. That was the Broncos' only turnover in the last two games after they averaged 2.6 giveaways per game during their eight-game losing streak, and it is not a coincidence that their fortunes have improved as a result.