The Denver Broncos were right in the thick of things on Sunday when they had a chance to defeat the Houston Texans, but too many issues regarding offensive consistency plagued them in a must-win game.

Denver Broncos offense struggling with consistency

During the Broncos’ five-game winning streak, Russell Wilson was playing clean and efficient football. Even in some of those games, the offense was required to make headway in fourth-quarter drives that helped them find ways to win.

In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Denver had every chance to win the game late, but ineffectiveness on third down and turnovers proved to be costly for them.

What’s even more mind-boggling is that the Broncos offense started off with four straight punts to begin the game. To begin the second half, the Broncos punted it away on their first two possessions.

On top of that, the Broncos turned the ball over three times and yet still found themselves in a goal-line situation to win the game against a very stingy and tough Texans team.

While the end result is frustrating, the Broncos’ offense has yet to play its best football, and that is both promising and concerning at the same time.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton touched on the team’s 0-11 third down performance in Sunday’s loss.

“Agree,” Payton said. “One hundred percent. It’s not good enough. Obviously, it’s frustrating. It’s a combination of a handful of things—protection, guys open and us not making a play. I felt like the yardage and the distances were what we wanted. We have to be better in that area. Our third down plan has to be cleaner. It wasn’t a game where so many of them were third-and-long.”

Payton is right. At times, the protection on Sunday wasn’t consistent against the Texans’ pass rush; there were times when Wilson didn’t see an open player or didn’t get the chance to see the open player because of pressure.

Part of the issue that Denver has struggled with has been running the ball efficiently to the outside. Most of their success in the run game has come inside the A and B gaps.

Denver will have to find ways to use Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, and Jaleel McLaughlin effectively. McLaughlin’s contributions and impact have lessened over the course of their previous five-game win streak, and teams are prepared to play the edge when he’s in the game.

Jerry Jeudy is another player on offense who hasn’t had the opportunity to impact the game in the way that everybody knows he can. On film, there are times when he’s come open during his route, but either pressure and protection issues or Wilson not seeing him have led to Denver missing out on some big play opportunities.

“I think it’s a fair question,” Payton said regarding Jeudy. “[WR] Jerry [Jeudy] went through a stretch. I don’t want to call it a dry spell, but certainly frustration. Even when we won, he wanted to be a part of it. We want to get his hands on the ball. That was a play, though, where they dropped coverage, and he very easily was a viable target for a big play. Finally, he was able to make a few in that game. Really, if you look at the tape closely and you watch all of it—I know some of you get to do that. If you watch all of it, holy cow, there are about two or three of those plays.”

The reality is this: Denver’s offense has had moments of good play, but they are nowhere near playing their best football — if they can find a way to shore up their issues in protection, on third down, and overall consistency, they very well could make a playoff run. Their room for error is small at this point of the season, which puts even more pressure on them to succeed.