INDIANAPOLIS — The Broncos made plenty of plays Sunday against the AFC South-leading Colts.
They forced a fumble. They recorded four sacks. They targeted a favorable one-on-one matchup between Courtland Sutton and Rock Ya-Sin.
The offense pushed the lead to 10 early in the third quarter, and the defense held the Colts scoreless for Indianapolis’ first three drives of the fourth quarter.
So, yes, the Broncos are doing plenty of good things.
But they’re still not doing enough of them.
That, to both players and coaches, was clear after Adam Vinatieri knocked in a 51-yard field goal with 26 seconds to play to secure a 15-13 come-from-behind win.
Consider the following:
The Broncos had a chance to hold Indianapolis scoreless in the first half. Instead, they allowed the Colts to go 43 yards in 55 seconds. The Colts kicked a 55-yard field goal to cut the lead to 6-3 at the break.
“We screwed up the end of the half,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said. “We were in a coverage that is designed to not let anybody get out of bounds, and we screwed it up. So obviously we’re not coaching it right and we’re not learning it right. To me, that was the worst thing we did all day defensively.”
Joe Flacco and the offense had opportunities to put the game out of reach with a fourth-quarter scoring drive. Instead, the unit punted three times in Colts territory during the frame.
“We couldn’t move it well enough to get in field-goal range or to get in scoring range in the red zone,” Fangio said. “It was a problem. After we scored early in the third quarter, it didn’t feel like we did much of anything after that.”
The unit converted just one third down during the second half, and the conversion came via penalty.
Von Miller nearly had a game-winning sack in the end zone to earn the Broncos their third win. Instead, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett shook Miller off and threw a 35-yard deep out to T.Y. Hilton.
“Yeah, I thought I had him,” Miller said. “It’s tough. Thinking about that play, [I’m] just sick. It’s worse when you feel like you could have done just a little bit more for your teammates. It’s going to hurt a little bit.”
Added Derek Wolfe: “At the end of the day, we got them in the end zone and we should have them on the ground. Von and I should have got him on the ground. That’s not all Von. That guy’s hard to tackle, I should have been there to help him. I tripped over Von — just uncoordinated — and it was a stupid play. I should have made that tackle with Von and we would have gotten the win.”
The Broncos put together two consecutive drives in the first half that spanned 30 plays and 13 minutes and 23 seconds. Denver traveled 159 total yards and got as close as the 3-yard line on at least one occasion. Instead of scoring touchdowns, the Broncos kicked a pair of short field goals.
“Those hurt you,” Fangio said. “They usually come back to bite you. Especially for us. We don’t score many points anyway. For us to not come away with seven when we have a chance to on both of those drives, it ends up being a major factor in the game.”
In all, it boiled down to a simple truth for this Broncos team that now sits at 2-6, the franchise’s worst start since 2010.“We’ve got to do the things you’ve got to do to win these games,” Fangio said. “And we haven’t done them.”
The difference between making those plays and not is seemingly minuscule. The difference in result is not.
That makes the game — a loss in which the Broncos gave up a 10-point second-half lead — frustrating. It also makes it somewhat possible to stomach, even as the Broncos now face their reality that includes three last-minute losses.
“I’ve said this so many times: In 2015, we had a lot of games like this, we were just the ones winning,” Wolfe said. “I’m sure the reporters were asking the guys in the [other] locker room, ‘Hey, how do you feel about losing by two points?’ And it was the same thing last year, it was a lot of close games. It just shows you how good of a team we have. It takes time.
“We’ve got a new coach. It just takes time, it takes time to get everybody on the same page and play a whole complete game. It takes experience with each other and trust, and you’ve got to care about each other and we’ll get there.”
They’ll aim to take that next step against Cleveland on Sunday — and then seven more times after the bye.
Each game will represent a chance to do good things. And to do enough of them to secure the ever-desired result.