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Sean Payton: Broncos beating themselves with penalties, particularly on defense

As for the Broncos' slow offensive operations, Payton said reducing the verbiage may be part of solution.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo — Sean Payton fixed the big play issue with Marvin Mims Jr.

Vance Joseph fixed the sackless problem by getting two from Jonathon Cooper and one each from Randy Gregory and Nik Bonitto.

What Payton and Joseph haven’t yet fixed is the Denver Broncos’ penalty problem.

And not just penalties but killer penalties that are both ill-timed and major while too often keeping the opposing offense on the field when it appears the job was done.

“Before you’re talking about how to win games you also have to understand how not to lose games,’’ Payton said in his day-after-game conference call with reporters Monday. “We’re currently tied for a league-high 19 penalties. We lead the league defensively with 12 fouls called, five personal fouls.

“So we have a number of players where we’re off the field on third down but there’s a flag on the turf, there’s holding or pass interference which makes it an automatic first down. So instead of being off the field those are turnover penalties. So we’ve got to be better and more disciplined in that area and that starts with us as coaches.’’

As he did Sunday evening after the Broncos lost, 35-33, to Washington to fall to 0-2, Payton said momentum changed after the Broncos not only jumped to a 21-3 lead, but after Mims’ 45-yard punt return with 7:57 remaining in the first half that set up a chance to bury the Commanders and put the game away.

Instead, the Broncos’ offense disintegrated.

— A running play by Javonte Williams to pick up a first down at the Washington 25 yard line was negated by a holding call against left guard Ben Powers.

— On second and 15, there was confusion in who on-field personnel – Williams ran off the field late, then ran back on as the play clock was ticking down and the Broncos had to burn their third and final timeout of the first half.

— After the timeout, Wilson scrambled left, seemed to take a face mask from Washington’s Jamin Davis that the officials missed, and had the ball stripped by Davis that the officials didn’t miss.

The Denver D seemed ready to overcome these mishaps and get the ball back to their offense but a sack by Alex Singleton that would have brought up third and 18 was negated by a Bonitto facemask that instead gave Commanders’ quarterback Sam Howell a first and 10.

Washington closed the final 2 minutes of the first half with 11 points to narrow the score to 21-14.

The mix-up getting the play called is irked Payton as much as any issue. Let’s look at the first timeout the Broncos had to burn. Payton deliberated before sending in a four-man personnel group with 22 seconds left on the play clock. By the time the fresh group got in the huddle for the play call, there were 15 seconds left on the play clock. By the time Wilson called the play, raised from his knee position and got his team to the line of scrimmage, there were only 3 seconds left on the play clock.

Time out. Jaleel McLaughlin scored on the play after the timeout but the symptom that would later become part of the offense’s mid-game struggles had surfaced.

“The first thing we have to look at is reduce the verbiage,’’ Payton said. “And if we have longer plays then we can easily get to a wrist band but we have to reduce the variables. And I just finished saying this at the team meeting, if we’re offensively and defensively having trouble breaking the huddle and getting lined up then we’ve got to look at, ‘Do we have too much in?’

Credit: Drew Litton

“And then how do we reduce the verbiage at the line of scrimmage or in the huddle quite frankly because it goes from me to the QB, the QB to the offense and then here we go. So that’s going to improve. How we do it can vary. One is reduce the verbiage, the other is get to the line of scrimmage spontaneously, the other is wristband certain plays that are longer called.”

Having lost their first two games at home, the Broncos play next at 2-0 Miami. For the first time, the Broncos will go into a game as underdogs. Maybe that will help because after six consecutive losing seasons, a significant percentage of Broncos are currently pessimistic this 2023 team can stop the skid.

Payton said it’s important for his players “to tune out the distractions when you lose two games like this. It’s challenging and they have to be able to do that.”



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