Wobbly Broncos still facing toughest part of 2022 schedule

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With plenty of woes already weighing them down after a 3-8 start to the Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett era, the Denver Broncos' schedule is about to get even more difficult.

Over the last six weeks of the season, the Broncos have two games remaining with the Kansas City Chiefs, who lead the league in scoring at 29.6 points per game, to go with a game against the league’s No. 2 rushing team in the Baltimore Ravens (Sunday). The Broncos also have the holiday double-dip with away games on Christmas (at Los Angeles Rams) and New Year’s Day (at Kansas City).

That doesn’t even include visits from the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15 and Week 18, respectively.

Denver remains the lowest-scoring offense (14.3 PPG) at this point in a season since the 2000 Cleveland Browns, who were shut out four times that season and one year removed from their expansion return to the league. Denver has just 157 points through 11 games.

“It’s unacceptable,’’ Wilson said. “This organization, there’s tradition here … we’ve got to honor it. We’ve got to honor it by winning.’’

The Broncos head into the final stretch with an offense perilously close to the lowest-scoring non-strike team in franchise history -- the 1966 AFL Broncos that scored 196 points in a 14-game season (14.0 points per game).

“We are where we are, we’re 3-8,’’ said safety Justin Simmons after their seventh loss in the last eight games. “Not even close to where we thought we would be. It’s draining, but nobody cares … We’ve got to find ways to win football games.

“ … It sucks to lose, it definitely wears on you, but no one cares. We get paid to win, we’re not winning, it’s that simple.’’

Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers brought the latest, and one of the most visible outbursts, when defensive tackle Mike Purcell and Wilson had a heated sideline exchange that was caught on the broadcast.

“We all are here to do a job,’’ running back Latavius Murray said. “Everybody wants to win and it's frustrating, you have a job to do regardless of what the outcome is. You’ve got to take that into consideration when you’re showing frustration, whatever that is.’’

“It’s about accountability, everybody’s got to see what they can do themselves to get better,’’ Hackett said. “ … All three phases and that starts with me.’’

The Broncos have been, and still may be, a prime candidate for the age-old offense versus defense locker room split if the team’s offense doesn’t find a way to pick up the pace at least some. However, the Broncos defense has now surrendered a 100-yard rushing performance as well as a 100-yard receiving performance in each of the last two games.

They failed to close the deal against the Titans and Raiders in back-to-back games and have dropped to No. 3 in scoring defense with two dates with Patrick Mahomes still on the docket in the next five weeks to go with another former league MVP in Lamar Jackson this Sunday.

It's why Simmons said of the team’s defense “honestly we don’t care about the numbers, the stat that goes out, the point thing, we didn’t play good enough to win.’’

The postseason window is getting smaller and smaller, but players know the job's not done until the final down is played this season.

“We’ve still got to come in and do our job every single day and if you don’t want to come in and do your job you probably shouldn’t be here anyway,’’ said linebacker Josey Jewell. “It’s a good time to determine who wants to be here and who doesn’t. It will show you who’s tough.’’