Vic Fangio Reveals his Hopeful Message to Locker Room as Broncos Start 0-2
The Denver Broncos have started 0-2 for the second straight year to open the Vic Fangio era in the Mile High City. After a nail-biting loss to Tennessee in the season-opener that exposed some questionable coaching decisions and clock management by Fangio, the Broncos took to the road and fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-21.
Any loss in the NFL is bitter and hard to take. But when it comes on the heels of losing your starting quarterback for the next 2-6 weeks, it becomes even more difficult to swallow.
Despite the bad luck and ravages of the injury bug, some perspective is in order. Yes, the Broncos are 0-2 but there are still 14 games left to be played. The 2020 season is still in its infancy and as talented as the Broncos are, even without Drew Lock for the foreseeable future potentially, this team still has every opportunity to make something of itself.
Following the loss in Pittsburgh, which saw Lock exit the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, never to return, Fangio had a message to his disappointed locker room. The coach shared what he imparted to his troops.
“We’ve proven we can put ourselves in position to win against two really good teams—two teams that most people have picked to go to the playoffs," Fangio said in Pittsburgh from the virtual podium.
What happens next for the Broncos heading into Week 2? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our FREE newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
True, the Broncos have been within striking distance of winning these past two games — both against quality opponents. But critical errors in clutch situations have seen Fangio's squad die the proverbial death of inches.
"We’ve got to avoid the sequences that happen," Fangio said. "The first drive of the game, you get a nice drive going and we’re in field goal range. We get pushed out of it and we fumble it. We have the chance to hold them to a field goal, but they convert a 3rd-and-long. We had a chance at an interception that we didn’t make. Instead of being 3-0 in our favor at least, or 3-0 in their favor, we’re down 7-0. Those types of sequences in a game have a major impact on the outcome of a game.”
The margin for error in the NFL is razor thin and for a team still trying to climb out of the literal and figurative doldrums, it's almost non-existant. The Broncos have turned it over three times in the last two games, and their opponents have made them pay.
It's not just turnovers, though. In each of this season's opening losses, the Broncos had the chance to plunge the final dagger into the opponent in the closing minutes but a lack of execution and coaching wherewithal (if we're being honest) doomed the team.
Against Tennessee, the Broncos protected a one-point lead with the chance to operate their four-minute offense and never let the Titans back on the field. A three-and-out put the kybosh on those hopes, which was followed by Fangio's defense allowing a clock-eating drive starting from its opponent's 10-yard line to march into chip-shot field goal range.
Instead of stopping the clock by calling timeout and preserving some time for Lock and company to drive back and get their own field goal to win, Fangio bet on Tennessee's kicker continuing his slump, and the coach got lost in his playbook. By the time Lock got the ball back, there were 17 ticks left on the clock. No chance.
This week, the Broncos trailed by five points in the closing minutes but backup QB Jeff Driskel put together an impressive 67-yard drive that pushed all the way to the Steelers' 15-yard line. On 3rd-&-2, instead of handing it off to the Broncos' $16 million running back Melvin Gordon, and trust the offensive line to open a hole, it was instead a pass that fell incomplete.
On 4th-&-2, the Broncos couldn't kick a field goal. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had to pick up the two yards and move the chains because only a touchdown on that possession would do. It was another pass, and surprise, surprise, the Steelers blitzed, only this time, a free rusher off the right side went untouched and before Driskel could even blink, he was sacked.
Turnover on downs.
The Broncos played admirably and showed a lot of heart in the wake of losing Lock but the type of plays that winning teams make when the chips are down continue to elude Fangio and company. But there are some silver linings to hold onto, just don't hang your hat on them.
“Our whole team—not just our defense—had great fight," Fangio said. "Our defense, outside of three or four plays, played an admirable game."
The offense played extremely well in the second half. Credit is due to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur for his half-time adjustments and to the young talent that surrounded the rusty and beleaguered Driskel.
Close, but no cigar. Broncos fans are simply fed up with hanging onto the moral victory in the midst of actual losses on the field.
Fangio's defense and the talent on the offensive side of the ball will keep Driskel in competitive games while Lock is out. Eventually, though, Fangio's squad has to find a way to make those crunch-time plays that have heretofore slipped through their fingers.