DENVER — One loss cannot become two.
In the home locker room at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday following a 23-7 defeat at the hands of the Ravens, that was Head Coach Vic Fangio's message to his team.
"We're on to the next game," Fangio said after the Broncos fell to 3-1. "You can't have a hangover from this game."
When the Broncos return to UCHealth Training Center on Monday, they'll move away from a game that could have served as a statement win. Instead, the Broncos will turn their attention to their Week 5 trip to Pittsburgh.
Denver's two-score loss on Sunday was not the result of a single play or misstep, as the Broncos struggled to move the ball on offense and gave up several chunk plays on defense. Injuries also took their toll on the team, as Denver entered the game without two starting offensive linemen, lost Teddy Bridgewater and Diontae Spencer before halftime and ruled out Pat Surtain II late in the game.
The loss, though, does not have to be season defining. An undefeated season is each team's goal every year — until they lose their first game. The key to making a run at a playoff berth is to not let one loss spiral into season-cratering losing streaks. In 2020, three of the seven AFC playoff teams never suffered consecutive losses. Two others lost two consecutive games once during the season, while the final two playoff teams lost three consecutive games at one point. Of those four teams with a multi-game losing streak, none lost consecutive games at any other point in the season.
During the Broncos' five-year absence from the postseason, they've at had at least two separate multi-game losing streaks in each season. In 2020, the Broncos lost multiple games in a row on four different occasions.
Von Miller, who earlier in the week equated the matchup with the Ravens to an early-season playoff game, believes the Broncos now have the makeup to avoid that sort of stretch.
"We've got a team full of tough guys," Miller said. "We've got guys from all different places in college. Got a lot of Alabama guys, a lot of guys that [are] used to winning. This team's got a lot of guys that have won before. We've just got to rack them up. Respond[ing] this week is everything [when] going against a Pittsburgh team — a tough Pittsburgh team."
With a win against the now 1-3 Steelers, the Broncos would hold a 4-1 record for the first time since the 2016 season. The loss against the Ravens won't sting any less, but Denver would take its next stride toward its goal of the postseason. And if the Broncos want a rematch against the Ravens, that's the only way to possibly set one up this season.
"We'll see them again," Miller said. "A team like that, you've got to play those guys twice. You got to have a couple of times [against] those guys. We got our first go, and we'll see those guys again — 100 percent."
For now, the defense can look forward to facing a more traditional Steelers offense.
"It'll be good to just get back to a normal team that just drops back to past and just hands the ball[off], you know?" Miller said. "It'll be refreshing just to play normal football again. We've just got to get back in the lab and rack them back up."
By the time the Broncos get to Pittsburgh next weekend, safety Justin Simmons said the team's Week 4 loss will have been long forgotten.
"Just like the wins, you go in tomorrow, you watch the tape, and you're on to the next week," Simmons said. "You know, one of the beauties of being in the NFL is no one cares what you did the week before. So you won? Great. … In our case, this week we're on to Pittsburgh after tomorrow. [There's] a lot of film we've got to watch, a lot of things you know correct defensively. The biggest emphasis is no takeaways.
"We've just got to be better going into Pittsburgh."
That's the goal as they arrive in the Steel City — and if they can properly turn the page, they'll end up leaving with a needed win.