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'You have to keep playing': Broncos show ability to rebound from tough breaks, rally for win over Packers

DENVER — There will always be at least a few mistakes.

The games will be often be close, and the ball will not always fall the Broncos' way.

As Head Coach Sean Payton has often said in the early weeks of the 2023 season, football is game of imperfection.

That's simply the nature of the NFL.

And yet, the teams that find a way to respond to the imperfections and the mistakes and the in-game slip-ups will often be the ones to also find success.

"The ability to kind of get on to the next play [and] put the adversity behind you, it's going to come in each game," Payton said after the Broncos' 19-17 win over the Packers. "The teams that have that trait generally fare better. I was glad to see us do that. We had some tough breaks, tough calls, but you have to keep playing. [I'm] glad we ended up with a win."

Payton has also spoken about the need for the Broncos to learn how to win and — perhaps just as importantly — how not to lose. And on Sunday, Denver very well could have found a way to let another game slip away.

After shutting the Packers out in the first half and taking a 16-3 lead, the Broncos allowed the Packers to score touchdowns on back-to-back drives.

The Broncos appeared to get off the field on third-and-6 on the first drive, but a defensive holding call on Pat Surtain II kept the Packers' chances alive. Six plays later, Packers quarterback Jordan Love found Romeo Doubs — and, it appeared, also Pat Surtain II— for a score that cut Denver's lead to six points.

After a three-and-out, the Packers moved the ball down the field again, keyed by an 18-yard completion to Luke Musgrave that also included a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Kareem Jackson. The Broncos' safety was disqualified from the game, and the Packers marched toward the end zone. On fourth-and-2, Love's pass to Doubs glanced off his hands — and fell to Jayden Reed for another touchdown.

After letting halftime leads slip away in all three of their home games this season, the Broncos could have suffered another heartbreaking defeat. They could have let unlucky bounces and questionable calls define another game and drop them to another loss.

Instead, they responded. The Broncos picked up a third-and-1 from their own 34-yard line on a 6-yard toss play to Javonte Williams. Russell Wilson then found Jerry Jeudy for a 16-yard gain to push the Broncos to the edge of field-goal range. And while Denver failed to pick up one more first down that would have run the clock down even further, the Broncos did enough to allow Wil Lutz to drill a 52-yard field goal.

"We have to keep moving on to the next play," guard Quinn Meinerz said of the team's mentality. "We know that we play an imperfect game and that every single snap we have to lock in and focus on what we have to do. That goes for us on offense, as well as all the other phases. It was good to have another one of those games where despite some of the adversity and momentum changes, we were able to stay locked in on the next play."

The defense, too, showed the ability to respond. After giving up a 29-yard catch-and-run to A.J. Dillon, the Broncos pushed the Packers backward from the edge of field-goal range before P.J. Locke picked off Love on third-and-long.

In the Broncos' other home games this year, there has not been an absence of good moments. Denver jumped out to a 21-3 lead against Washington and also led the Raiders and Jets at halftime. And yet, those games may have been defined by the Broncos' inability to respond to the opponents' counter-punches.

On Sunday against Green Bay, the Broncos delivered a different response — and with it, an alternate ending.

At 2-5, the Broncos are still far from where they hope to be, and Payton said his team has to "start stringing together these opportunities." And yet, an imperfect win was still a "good, hard-fought win," according to Payton.

And as the Broncos move forward toward their second game in three weeks against the Chiefs, they'll hope to build on the win.

"We want it to be the momentum to roll this over to next week," Courtland Sutton said. "We get to go see the Chiefs again, one week removed from playing them boys in a tough game on Thursday night. So [it's about] trying to use this momentum to roll into this weekend. [We want to] go take care of business and get the ball rolling in the division games."

Whether the ball's rolling their way or not, the Broncos will look to respond — and to continue stacking wins.

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