It’s all about the power of positive thinking in Dove Valley, where, according to quarterback Russell Wilson, the Broncos’ red zone goose egg isn’t as bad as it seems.
The Broncos’ 0-for-6 scoring efficiency inside the 20-yard line, which includes two fumbles and four field goals, is inches away from being 5-for-6. Allow Wilson to explain “the good news in it, because it’s not all bad news.”
“We’ve been down there six times, we had two fumbles on the one,” Wilson said. “That’s two of the six. We had a quick fly touchdown to Courtland (Sutton that was overturned against Houston), that’s three of the six… We had a little flip toss to (tight end Andrew) Beck that should’ve been a touchdown, we went offsides. That’s four of the six. Then the fifth one was the roll out where I hit (Eric Tomlinson) on the sideline and he was just barley out.
“Five of the six isn’t bad, that’s how I look at it.”
Another way to look at it?
The Broncos are the only NFL team since the turn of the century with at least five drives at goal-to-go and zero TDs through their first two games.
Certainly, there’s little doubt the Broncos are losing the red zone game of inches two weeks into the season. From the near-catches that Wilson described to the critical penalties — such as a false start on Sutton that wiped away Beck’s TD against Seattle — the Broncos’ lack of execution in the red zone has contrasted the overall statistical efficiency of the offense. The Broncos rank seventh in yards per game (391.5) and yards per play (6.1), and are top 10 in average passing yards (265.5) and average rushing yards (126).
Still, Hackett & Co. know much of that good has been made muted by the team’s inability to punch it in at the goal line.
“It’s been the point of emphasis this week,” center Lloyd Cushenberry said. “We get down there, we’ve got to get seven, not three, no zero. We’re 0-for-6, but five out of those six plays came down to like one inch, and we all know that.”
Better communication is the starting point to improving Denver’s red zone fortunes, as head coach Nathaniel Hackett reiterated Wednesday and his primary tailback underscored prior to practice. In the team’s six red zone trips, the Broncos have been penalized in four of them (two false starts, two delay of games).
“We’ve got to be on the same page,” Javonte Williams said. “In Seattle, it was loud, we couldn’t really communicate. Then in the home opener, we kept getting down behind the play clock, so we kept having to rush and speed things up.”
Hackett, Wilson and the Broncos believe they have the potential to be one of the NFL’s best red zone offenses. But as the coach acknowledges, “potential is a scary word.”
“Yes, there have been certain aspects of the game where we’ve performed at a high level, but in the end this game’s about scoring points,” Hackett said. “It’s just about finishing for us. We’ve been very close, and it’s frustrating at times, but there’s the potential and positives there, too.”
And as Wilson casually reminded Broncos Country on Wednesday, “I’ve been fortunate to score a lot of touchdowns in the red zone (in my career).” This year, Wilson is 8-of-18 for 46 yards with no TDs and no interceptions, and he’s 4-of-12 inside the 10-yard line.
But again, No. 3’s not worried.
“We’ve had a lot of contested (plays in the red zone) and we just barely didn’t get in there here and there,” Wilson said. “So I’m not concerned — I’m actually really excited because I’m thinking about where we can go if we just fine-tune that little piece, and start making those one or two plays here or there, how much (we can score).”
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