The Denver Broncos matchup versus the Jacksonville Jaguars was highly anticipated given the impact the outcome could have for Denver’s favorite sports team.
The Broncos were essentially playing for their football livelihood with a record of 0-3 entering the game. Presented with an opportunity to right the ship, Denver sputtered and wound up blowing a lead en route to another crushing defeat.
Things started out strong for the Broncos as they outscored the Jaguars 17-6 in the first half, and opened up the game with a splendid drive that resulted in Joe Flacco gunning a touchdown to first-round pick Noah Fant.
The Broncos’ 17 points in the first half were the most points the team scored through their first three games. For a while, things were looking solid as the defense was tenacious and the offense appeared to be in a groove.
“We had a good mix, although the run game wasn’t as productive as it’s been, although we popped that one good one,” head coach Vic Fangio said. “Then we threw it well, threw it and caught it well against a pretty good defense albeit I know they were missing one of their better players. I thought we operated pretty efficiently, and unfortunately, the half ended the way it did there with the interception.”
Flacco’s interception to end the opening half was pivotal in the outcome of the game. While there were plenty of opportunities for the Broncos in the second half, Flacco’s mishap provided the Jaguars with life entering halftime.
The first half was great for Denver, they amassed a lead, and the defense managed to generate a heap of sacks. Everything went relatively smooth for the Broncos, all they had to do was hold the lead in the second half to capture their first victory of the season.
Instead of protecting their home turf, though, the Broncos let the Jaguars’ offense run wild. The Jaguars outscored the Broncos 20-7 in the second half, backed by an onslaught of production from running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournette complied 225 yards on 29 attempts, including a play that went for 81 yards. The young back ravaged Fangio’s defense, which resulted in the Jaguars dominating time of possession in the second half.
Coach Fangio could not attribute the Broncos deficiencies against the run to one set of issues. Instead, he felt as if the Broncos’ defense played poorly as a whole.
“Everything. They were blocking us good up front, we were missing tackles out of the secondary—corners and safeties at times,” he explained. “Basically, we were just getting blocked, and the good back had some room and some softness to run through, and he did. Our run defense went south pretty much starting with the second drive in the second half.”
The Broncos’ tackling was especially bad and resulted in the Jaguars clawing their way to a narrow road victory. Denver often times missed the first tackle on a Jaguars player, resulting in long, draining drives that wore the Broncos defense down.
“Tackling hadn’t been a problem for us in the first three weeks,” Fangio said. “Obviously, it was yesterday to epidemic proportions. It’s hard to work on it in practice. Obviously we don’t tackle live, but we do drills that emphasize it. We teach it through video and have had a lot of success with that over the years. We just have to go get back to that.”
While Flacco managed to provide the Broncos with a late go-ahead score, Denver’s defense faltered again in the 4th quarter, allowing rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II to drive his team down into field goal range to set-up the eventual game-winning field goal for the Jaguars.
The Broncos dropped to 0-4 as the Jaguars pulled out a last-second 26-24 victory. The loss was yet another frustrating game for the Broncos, who have been within arm’s reach of victory in every game they have played this season.
The Broncos inability to close out games has crippled them this season and is a direct reason as to why they are winless. Should Denver want to salvage their season moving forward, they must learn how to close games to ensure victories, a notion Fangio is instilling within his team.
“You just have to do it,” he said emphatically. “They get the ball back there with 1:30 to go or so. The first couple plays we have a couple good rushes, actually knocked the ball out, but it bounced right back to them. Then we got hit with the penalty, so that puts the ball on the 40 and now with a field goal game, you’re only one 20-yard, 25-yard gain away. They still had timeouts and time left so really the way—once they got the ball to the 40, time really wasn’t that much of a factor at that point. We just have to be able to make some plays to finish it. We came close. The rush helped early, and then we just got beat in coverage going after that.”