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When Broncos have stumbled this season, they've stayed down

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Eventually, plenty of theories will be tossed around, and piles of numbers will be crunched in and around the Denver Broncos as they try to sift through the mess of 2017.

But mired in their current eight-game losing streak -- their longest since 1967 -- it's clear the Broncos are a team that doesn't rebound from mistakes and doesn't come from behind. Their 3-9 record reflects their pile of mistakes, how much they've trailed in games and their inability to rebound from any of that.

Until they fix that, they might have experienced their last win until the next season rolls around.

"You hear it from V.J. [coach Vance Joseph] every day for the last eight weeks," running back C.J. Anderson said. "The same thing has been on the board many different ways, if you've been paying attention. Us as leaders, we try to let them know we've got to stop doing this and we have to work on it. To be honest, in practice it doesn't happen. We're just trying to figure out how that transfers over to [games].”

It can be a chicken-or-egg argument: Have the Broncos' mistakes robbed them of the confidence that won a Super Bowl two seasons ago, or do they make mistakes because they don't work with enough confidence? The fact is in each of the Broncos' three wins -- albeit the last one came two months ago -- they held the lead at least 67 percent of the time.

In eight of their nine losses, they held the lead less than 7 percent of the time. In five of those defeats, they never led. Certainly their minus-16 turnover margin -- 31st in the league -- is at the foundation of it all, but it doesn't explain the inability to bounce back.

The Broncos have two losses this season -- the last two -- in which they've been even in the turnover battle, and they were minus-1 in the season-opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Joseph and the players talked about the need "to play a clean game," but that might not be as important in the short term as showing a more resiliency in a messy one.

Overall, the Broncos are 0-6 when they trail at the end of the first quarter, 0-8 when they trail at halftime and 0-9 when they trail at the end of the third quarter. Aside from their turnovers, there may be no statistics that reflect the state of their season better than those numbers.

Get the Broncos down, and opponents find a way to win.

"I think one is a mindset not to tell ourselves, 'Here we go again'," Anderson said. "Here is another tipped interception. Here is another muffed punt. Here is another defensive touchdown. I guess that is the mindset, move on and go to the next play. Everyone continue to do their job consistently at a high level."

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas put it this way: "It keeps happening. Something happens, something else happens, then we're down and no matter what we do, it don't get better."

Perhaps it's because the drumbeat of social media prevents players from escaping the criticism they used to be able to leave behind when they arrived to the team's complex. Perhaps it's the proverbial market correction after five division titles and two Super Bowl appearances with a locker room full of players who just assumed the Broncos always have winning records.

Or perhaps there's a little of what John Elway said when he lumped himself into a group that might have gotten "a little bit soft" in all the winning.

"We all are sick and tired of losing," Anderson said. "I don't know if y'all understand how much losing bothers people because y'all are not in it. You don't feel it. It's like going to your job every day and it sucks. It just sucks. You're talking to other players around the league and you're seeing fun celebrations that you never got a chance to do. It just sucks.”