ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller put away his trademark smile and stepped out front Tuesday to try to snap a reeling team out of its doldrums.
With a four-game losing streak in hand and the Broncos having been the first defense in league history to allow a 200-yard rusher in consecutive games in a season, Miller went all-in on Thursday night’s game in Arizona.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a must win, but we’re going to kick their ass, though," the Denver Broncos linebacker said. "Make sure you put that up there. We’re going to kick their ass. They’re going to get our best this week. Last week was a tough week, week before that, whatever, this week, Thursday night, prime time, they’re going to get the Broncos’ best."
Then Miller was asked if he was irritated, and he offered: “I’m not irritated, I’m just confident. I’m confident in myself, confident in my teammates, most importantly. It’s what we need. We’ll be ready to go."
That creates quite a backdrop for a game between the 2-4 Broncos and the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals. The Broncos, who finished 5-11 last season and haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72, find themselves in a swirl of pessimism this week.
Coach Vance Joseph is on almost every “hot seat" list that gets made. GM John Elway called the team soft.
That team is 1-9 in its past 10 road games, and the 9,131 no-shows in a frigid 23-20 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday were the highest total since 2010, when Josh McDaniels was fired as the team’s coach with four games remaining in what became a 4-12 season.
Joseph has said it is important for the players to “keep out the noise" as they try to dig out of the losing streak after a 2-0 start.
“We all get it. We’ve lost four games in a row, everyone’s frustrated, the city is on fire -- they all get it," Joseph said. "We have to simply ignore the noise so we can move on, so we can fix it and win. If you live in the past, you can’t move on, so we have to ignore it, go back to work and prove that we can win football games. That will stop the noise."
“Just keep fighting. That’s the only thing you can do at this point is keep fighting, keep working," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “Hopefully that leads to a win."
But on Tuesday, Miller did what he often said he would do if “we need to do something" when vocal leadership is called for in the post-Peyton Manning, post-DeMarcus Ware landscape of the Broncos locker room. Manning retired after the 2015 season, and Ware retired after 2016.
That has left Miller, now a team captain, as the most decorated player in the locker room, with six Pro Bowl selections to go with a Super Bowl MVP and ring. For his part, Miller has often been a self-professed lead-by-example player, but Tuesday showed the side offensive linemen often see.
“That’s the way I’m feeling," Miller said. “… We’ve been preaching our best. Our best, it starts with me. I’ll give it my best this week. My teammates will be right there with me … We just got to go out there and play, and if we go out there and play Broncos football, they won’t be able to play with us. That’s just the way I feel.
“They’re going to get our best on Thursday. They’ve got to come with their best."