ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos, now 2-5 after Thursday night's cave-in against the Kansas City Chiefs, have discovered their offense is rather disheveled, their defense doesn't play its best in the biggest moments and the special teams units are piling up mistakes.
The Broncos appear to be a moody team that rises too high at the first hint of success and falls hard when the losses come. This is the challenge for a franchise filled with players who have not won consistently.
Thursday, the Broncos offense surrendered nine sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble returned for a touchdown. The team rushed for just 71 yards against a previously porous Chiefs defense. The Broncos defense allowed the Chiefs three full scoring drives with backup Matt Moore at quarterback. Special teams had a missed field goal attempt to go with what coach Vic Fangio called a "botched" fake punt.
A poor showing, to say the least, after two consecutive wins.
"It just shows us maybe we got a little bit ahead of ourselves," said Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris. "We've got to [go] right back to the drawing board and play our game."
"Definitely a learning experience for guys to kind of get knocked on their butt a little bit," said quarterback Joe Flacco. " ... If we truly believe that we can be who we want to be, well, the men in this situation don't bury their heads and go hide and let everything fall apart."
The Broncos are now 13-26 since the start of the 2017 season. They have just 14 players on the current roster who were with the team in the 2016 season -- their last winning season, at 9-7 -- and have just seven players on the current roster who played in Super Bowl 50.
That leaves 39 players on the active roster who have not experienced more than a three-game winning streak on the Broncos.
Winning regularly and competing for AFC West titles is just a fable for most of the Broncos. At one point during Thursday's loss, the Broncos were in a six defensive back look that featured three DBs (Davontae Harris, Coty Sensabaugh and Duke Dawson) who weren't even with the team before Aug. 31.
The trick is finding a message that gets through to the players who have seen the best of times and the players who know nothing but the worst of times.
"[We] can't get discouraged, it's pro sports," said Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
"We don't have time to keep our heads down," Chris Harris Jr. said. "We still going to keep fighting. … It looks bad right now, but a lot of teams have a record like us."
It stung a little more Thursday because the Chiefs represent how far the Broncos have to go. The Broncos were once the AFC West's measuring stick with five consecutive division titles between 2011-15, but that designation now belongs to the Chiefs.
Thursday was the Broncos' eighth consecutive loss to the Chiefs -- the last win coming in Week 2 of 2015.
Asked how he and his coaching staff keep players who haven't experienced winning in position to win, Fangio said:
"You just keep coaching them on 'This is a winning play, this is not a winning play.' And keep showing them the mistakes that are correctable. ... A lot of our poor play, as it is for a lot of teams, is self-inflicted. Very few times are you just dominated and whipped one-on-one. It happens, but our problems are more self-inflicted a lot. Some of it we're getting whipped.
"Obviously [Thursday] night wasn't a proud moment for any of us."