PHILADELPHIA—Vance Joseph’s quest for the first road win of his NFL head coaching career included a team work out for his Denver Broncos here Saturday at Temple University’s practice field.
Former Bronco receiver Steve Watson and current kicker Brandon McManus once walked on the Temple campus grounds.
Which may have nothing to do with the price of Von Miller jerseys at the Broncos’ team stores. But maybe some historical ties will help the Broncos win a road game across town Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
OK, we’re searching. To date, the Broncos are 3-1 at home, 0-3 at home.
“One adjustment: Don’t give the ball away,’’ Joseph said Friday. “How about that?’’
Oh, yeah, Joseph made one other adjustment: He changed quarterbacks. Trevor Siemian is out. Brock Osweiler is back in.
The Broncos are tied with Washington as the league’s biggest underdogs this week. The Eagles are 7.5-point favorites against the Broncos. Seattle is a similar favorite at home against Washington.
Here are 9 keys to the Broncos pulling off an upset:
1. One turnover or less
During their three-game losing streak, the Broncos committed not one turnover, not 9, but 11 turnovers. Turnovers cost Siemian his starting job. The Broncos -11 turnover ratio on the season is surpassed only by 0-8 Cleveland.
2. Right the ship, Brock
New quarterback Osweiler has an enthusiastic personality. Change to status quo brings hope the situation will improve. Change, in the Broncos’ case, cannot be bad.
3. Harass Carson Wentz into turnovers
Joseph in two separate press conferences this week mentioned how Eagles’ second-year quarterback holds on to the ball a little longer than others. Broncos pass rusher Von Miller gets to the quarterback a little quicker than others.
4. Cover Zach Ertz
The weakness in the Denver defense this year has been in its failure to cover the tight end. During their three-game skid, New York’s Evan Engram (5 catches, 82 yards, 1 touchdown), the Chargers’ Hunter Henry (4 catches, 73 yards) and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (7 catches, 133 yards, 1 TD) combined for 16 catches, 288 yards and 2 TDs.
Ertz is second to Kelce among tight ends with 43 catches and 528 yards and first with 6 touchdowns. But he suffered a hamstring injury during practice this week and is listed as questionable. Even if Ertz plays, he figures to be limited. Maybe, the Broncos’ safeties and linebackers can keep up.
5. Get DT and TD
Broncos’ No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas has gone 13 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown. The switch to Osweiler may help snap his skid.
The Eagles’ defense is No. 1 against the rush, allowing just 70.4 yards per game – the Broncos are No. 2 at 72.9 yards. So, the Broncos may have to put it up before they can run. The Broncos passing game should also be helped by the return of Emmanuel Sanders, who missed the past two games with an ankle injury.
6. Cover the kicks
The Eagles have the league’s second-best punt returner in Kenjon Barner (14.6-yard return average), so as he did Monday night against the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, Broncos’ punter Riley Dixon will again have to concentrate on hang time, first, distance, second.
7. Catch the kicks
Both Broncos’ punt returner Isaiah McKenzie and kickoff returner Cody Latimer mishandled the ball Monday night at Kansas City.
It’s not easy judging the ball the first time playing in strange surroundings.
8. Stop Blount, Ajayi
Eagles’ power back LeGarrette Blount is 11th in the league with 467 yards rushing on 4.7 yards per carry. Newly acquired Jay Ajayi was 13th with Miami with 465 yards. Joseph is anticipating Ajayi getting a few carries.
9. Get ready, Talib and Harris Jr.
The stars of the No Fly Zone haven’t received much action lately, especially Aqib Talib. But with Ertz hurt, and the Broncos’ strong in defending the run, Wentz may look outside where he has two fine receivers in Alshon Jeffrey (28 catches, 14.9-yard average) and Nelson Agholor (27 catches, 14.5-yard average).
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