ENGLEWOOD, Colo.: Vic Fangios Denver Broncos look a lot like Vance Josephs Denver Broncos.
Head-scratching decisions. Unceasing special teams gaffes. Substitution problems. Wretched quarterback play.
All of these factors preceded Josephs firing from his first head coaching job after he went 11-21 in 2017-18 and was replaced by Fangio, another first-time head coach, who is now 10-15.
The Broncos are 3-6 for the fourth consecutive season.
Last year, Fangio turned to rookie Drew Lock in December and the Broncos closed out the season by winning four of five to finish 7-9 and seemingly on the upswing.
Now, Lock is among the biggest bugaboos on a team thats digressing on all fronts after being hit hard by injuries (Von Miller, Jurrell Casey, Mike Purcell, Courtland Sutton) and
(Shelby Harris, Ed Donatell, Graham Glasgow, Mike Munchak).
With four interceptions in Denvers 37-12 loss at Las Vegas, Lock has now been picked off 10 times in five games since returning from a strained right rotator cuff that sidelined him for a month.
Fangio appeared to put offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on notice when he was asked after the game how Lock could regain his confidence.
Youve got to go back to work and hes got to start experiencing good play, Fangio said. Weve got to devise our passing game and our offense and our running game to where he can be more successful.
Even if Shurmur tweaks his schemes to better fit Locks skills, recovering from another slow start to post their first winning season since 2016 looks like a daunting task for the Broncos.
Their remaining opponents are a combined 39-26 and include Miami (6-3), New Orleans (7-2), Kansas City (8-1), Buffalo (7-3) and Las Vegas (6-3). The only games against teams with losing records are both on the road, against the Panthers (3-7) and Chargers (2-7).
Weve got to get regrouped and refocused and get our energies and our emotions pointed in the right direction, Fangio said.
A lot of jobs could depend on it.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
From bad returns to poor punts and awful coverage, special teams blunders under assistant coach Tom McMahon have become a weekly expectation.
Were not playing well enough now in the special teams area as a whole,” said Fangio, adding, “we arent in any of our three phases.
CB Bryce Callahan returned from an ankle injury and provided just about the only highlights, continuing a solid season after he missed all of last year with a foot injury.
It would be a lot better if we were getting wins, too, because then I could celebrate it, Callahan said.
Lock, who is now 6-6 as a starter with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and is regressing in way too many categories.
Despite Locks steep regressions from 2019 in winning rate (80% to 29%), completion rate (64.1% to an NFL-low 55%) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (7-3 to 7-10), Fangio said he sees growth in Locks game.
I see definite improvement, Fangio said. Theres no question he has the talent to go out there and do a good job for us. Hes just going through the growing pains of being a young quarterback. Were going through the growing pains of adjusting the offense to him.
Fangio insists hell let Lock play through his struggles bruised ribs willing.
58.6 Locks career completion rate, which is worse than Paxton Lynch (61.7), Trevor Siemian (59.3), Brock Osweiler (59.3), Case Keenum (62.3) and Joe Flacco (65.3) posted during their stints in Denver.
144 points the Broncos have allowed to their past four opponents, an average of 36 a game.
21 giveaways by the Broncos, five more than all of last season.
4 carries by RB Phillip Lindsay, who gained just 2 yards Sunday.
1. Come up with a better game plan for Lock knowing Brett Rypien might get the start if Lock’s bruised ribs keep him off the practice field too much.
2. Prepare for Tua Tagovailoa and the resurgent Dolphins knowing Harris likely will miss his third straight game and Donatell his fourth because of the novel
3. Clean up special teams play so the struggling offense and defense have a chance.
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