DENVER — The Broncos' offense did just enough on Sunday to earn a win over the Washington Football Team.
But they know they've got to do more.
"There were some times in the game where we were just rolling," Teddy Bridgewater said after the win. "Honestly, we had a couple good drives today; we got in a rhythm, getting different guys going, so that was great. Obviously, wish we could have scored — you know, take advantage of certain situations a little more. We'll watch the tape and then evaluate it then."
In Denver's 17-10 win, the Broncos posted a pair of drives in which they gained 138 total yards and scored 14 points. On those two possessions, Denver took advantage of big plays and converted in key situations.
On the first of the two scoring drives, Denver marched 75 yards in just seven plays, keyed by a pair of 19-yard completions to Albert Okwuegbunam and Tim Patrick and a 15-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by Melvin Gordon III.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the Broncos took advantage of a blocked field goal to travel 63 yards in eight plays for the go-ahead score. On that drive, Denver used a 14-yard pass to Patrick, an 18-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy on third-and-8 and a 14-yard run by Javonte Williams. On the possession, Denver converted two third downs and overcame a sack that set up a second-and-17 near midfield.
The problem, though, stemmed from the rarity of those drives. On Denver's six other possessions, the team recorded just 135 yards and three points.
"We just have to make our plays," Gordon said. "That's what it comes down to. We can't go three-and-out. You can't go three-and-out. The defense is playing well. You just can't do it. You have to make plays and that's what it comes down to. There's no magic formula with this. We have to strain a little harder to get the first, the second-and-whatever, can't be second-and-1. We have to go get it. Let's not leave it to that. There's no magic formula, we just have to strain a little harder. But we got the job done today."
Denver didn't lack big plays on its other drives. After the Broncos recorded just one play of more than 13 yards last week against Cleveland — excluding penalties — Denver had eight such plays on Sunday and two of at least 30 yards. Negative plays prevented the Broncos from capitalizing on their success.
"We've got to score more points — that's obvious," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "We've got to build sustained drives more often — that's obvious."
On Denver's first drive of the game, Bridgewater found Courtland Sutton for a 31-yard gain that pushed Denver to the Washington 30-yard line. The Broncos would only move backward from there. Dalton Risner was whistled for holding on first down, Bridgewater's screen for Williams fell incomplete and Lloyd Cushenberry III was called for an illegible man downfield penalty that set up third-and-29. After an incomplete pass, Denver was forced to punt.
And while that may have been the most extreme example of Denver's struggles to piece together drives, there were plays throughout the game that hurt the Broncos' chances at a score. Bridgewater was sacked on the first drive of the second quarter to force a field-goal attempt, Gordon lost four yards on a third-and-1 in the third quarter and Cushenberry stepped on Bridgewater's foot in the fourth quarter, which led to a sack and an eventual missed field goal.
"If we can just avoid negative plays, we can stay ahead of the sticks," Bridgewater said.
Then there was the Broncos' last series, which ended with a fumble and nearly gave Washington a free pass to overtime.
There were, of course, some bright spots. Bridgewater completed 73 percent of his passes for 213 yards, a touchdown and a 109.9 rating. Jeudy recorded four catches for 39 yards — including two catches on the go-ahead touchdown drive — as he returned from injury. Okwuegbunam led all Broncos pass-catchers with 64 yards. Gordon averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored a pair of touchdowns.
As the Broncos head toward Dallas, though, they must be better. As Fangio pointed out after the game, Dallas had scored at least 35 points in four consecutive games before backup quarterback Cooper Rush started in Week 8. The Broncos have not crossed the 25-point mark since Week 3, and Denver has crossed the 35-point mark just twice since the start of 2019.
"I think I saw that little tidbit [about Dallas]," Fangio said, "so we better get some points."