DENVER — In the biggest moments, a team's best players have to show up.
And after a 34-24 loss to the rival Raiders extended the Broncos' losing streak to three games, Denver's stars admitted they need to do more.
"When things aren't going well, your best players have to make big-time plays," safety Justin Simmons said. "There's obviously that play earlier on in the game that could've been a game-changing play. Like a step too late. Those are the plays I expect myself to make. I don't need anyone to tell me I'm playing bad or I'm playing good. I know when those things are happening. I need to play better. That's end of story. I play better, I like our chances of winning a lot of football games. I'm going to find a way to get that right."
As Simmons alluded to, he was a step late on a deep pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs III that resulted in a 48-yard opening score. A moment earlier, and he may have changed the outlook of the game. But after a second-team All-Pro season in 2019 and a Pro Bowl campaign in 2020, Simmons hasn't found the same ball production in 2021. Simmons has recorded nine interceptions in the last two seasons, but he has just one pick through six games.
Simmons, though, isn't the only one of the Broncos' star players that will look to increase their production. Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater will look to bounce back after throwing a season-high three interceptions, losing a fumble and failing to connect on deep passes to Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick.
"I always tell the guys that when you win, you point the finger at your teammates, and when you lose, you're pointing the thumb at yourself," Bridgewater said. "Today was one of those days where I'm definitely pointing the thumb at myself. I take accountability, responsibility for just a lot of things that went wrong, whether it was turnovers — we could have been better in many areas."
Von Miller, too, knows he can be better. After being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, Miller has recorded just half of a sack over the last three games. Miller said Sunday that his production must improve, and he noted that a jump in his play could help his team, as well.
"Everybody knows what we have to do to win football games," Miller said. "It starts with me. I've got to do a better job. I slipped. We started off winning and I've got to double down. I've got to do more. I've got to find a way to make a play. I've got to find a way to pressure the quarterback. I've got to do what I do best. I have to focus on me. That's all I know how to do. It's already hard enough to look at this, look at that, and try to fix this — I've got to do better. If I can do better that'll make everybody else's job a whole lot easier. I've got to do a better job leading. I've got to do a better job rushing the passer. I've got to do a better job all the way around and I'm confident that I'll be able to do it. I'm confident that I can get it fixed."
One reason why Miller is confident? He believes in the talent on the Broncos' roster. Their stars may not have turned in their best performances against the Raiders, but Miller is confident in the team that General Manager George Paton has built — and in the team's ability to respond.
"We've got top guys," Miller said. "It's not the team of the past where we were thinking like, 'If we had this or we had that we could do this. Or we can go compete.' That's not the case this year. We've got corners. We've got a quarterback. We've got a great offensive line. We've got great receivers and great running backs. We've got a great defense. We've got great inside linebackers, great rushers, great corners, and we've got an All-Pro safety. We've got great players everywhere. It's not about that. It's about us. This is a better situation to be in than a personnel situation. George, he's done a great job. He's just got to keep doing what he's doing.
"We've got to figure out a way to do what we're doing, and we'll be all right."