After a convincing win against the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Broncos fell to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The loss to the Bills was a humbling, sobering experience for the Broncos, who fall to 2-1 early in the season.

Most noticeably, the offense sputtered in the second half of the game, specifically in the red zone. Even as the Broncos struggled to put points on the board, starting safety Justin Simmons didn’t point fingers or place blame for the team’s loss. Instead, he acknowledged that the team, as a whole, struggled throughout the game.

Simmons, a first-year starter at safety, was thrust into the starting rotation in the ‘No Fly Zone’ when the Broncos parted ways with incumbent starter T.J. Ward. When asked about the defense’s role in the loss, Simmons didn’t mince words.

“Defensively, we had too many mistakes. Personally, I know we had a lot of open-field missed tackles [and] critical third downs that we have to be able to stop. I mean, hats off to Buffalo — they dialed up some plays that got us all riled up. All in all, it was [about] execution, and we didn’t execute today.”

As the defense struggled to get the Bills’ offense off of the field, the Bills were able to sustain longer, more effective drives that kept the Broncos’ offense on the sidelines.

Back at home in the Mile High City, the Broncos had practiced most of the week in temperatures that hovered around the mid-50s with scattered rain. In comparison, upstate New York saw relatively high temperatures on Sunday, and some speculated that the heat caused struggles for the Broncos’ defense.

Simmons firmly rebuked those claims. “No, no — not at all. I mean, when we’re on the field, we know we have to get the ball back and back them [the offense] up, get them out of field goal range. There were a few times where we executed that, but all in all, we didn’t execute on third downs, and that really hurt us.”

Under first-year head coach Vance Joseph, the Broncos have been handed their first loss of the season at the hands of a team who most expected them to beat. It will be up to players like Simmons to lead the team to a rebound next week when the Broncos host the rival Raiders. Simmons was asked about how the team plans on preparing for and motivating themselves for next week’s crucial AFC West match:

“Just go back to the film, we were in every play — it’s just… execution there in the end. We’ll go over the film and go over the fundamentals again. We won’t need any motivation for this one — another division game at home — so we’re ready to go.”

The Broncos are now one game behind the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in the race for the AFC West. The importance of the game against the Raiders cannot be overstated. With the results of this game set to have playoff implications further along in the season, it appears that Simmons and rest of the defense know what they need to do to fine-tune their play on the defensive side of the ball. Doing it against a offense like Oakland’s, of course, is another story entirely.