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Sean Payton: Broncos must learn ‘how not to lose games’

Sep 17, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the fourth quarter against the Washington Commanders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Payton declined to share his message to his players a day after the Denver Broncos fell to 0-2 on Sunday.

But the first-year Broncos coach did have a few key numbers in mind after reviewing the film from a 35-33 loss against the Washington Commanders in a game Denver led 21-3.

“There are some things that stand out right now, and before you talk about how to win games, you also have to understand how not to lose games,” Payton said Monday. “We’re currently tied for a league-high 19 penalties. We lead the league defensively with defensive fouls called, with 12. Five personal fouls.

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

Denver also led in its season opener at home against Las Vegas, but a 16-10 fourth-quarter lead turned into a one-point loss when the Raiders scored a touchdown with 6:34 remaining and the Broncos went three-and-out on their final possession.

They have now lost two home games by a combined three points, but they were far different setbacks in nature.

Denver was in firm control of Sunday’s game until the offense went into neutral. Up 21-3 in the second quarter, the Broncos managed only a pair of field goals until quarterback Russell Wilson completed a 50-yard Hail Mary pass to Brandon Johnson at the end of regulation.

The ensuing two-point conversion failed.

“Those two games were entirely different. There’s nothing that I would go look at and be able to say tangibly, ‘Hey, this is …'” Payton said. “Forget first half, second half, or whatever the script or narrative is. I thought yesterday, the momentum shifted in that game midway through the second quarter.”

After the Broncos built a 21-3 lead, their next four offensive possessions combined to produce 13 plays and ended with a fumble, an interception and a pair of punts. Meanwhile, the Commanders crawled back to tie the game during that span.

“Our kicking game was outstanding. We got a big punt return. We have it on their end of the field, and we’re already up 21-3. At that point, we go backwards with the penalties, then we turn the ball over,” Payton said. “The next chain of events, really — defensively we (give up) 18 unanswered points. They ended up scoring (on) five of the next six drives.”

The salt in the wound is that both losses came at home. The Broncos will now prepare for road trips to Miami and Chicago before returning for a home game against the New York Jets ahead of another road game at Kansas City.

The silver lining is that Denver is only a game behind the Chiefs and Raiders in the AFC West, with five division games remaining on the schedule.

“Being able to tune out the distractions when you lose two games like this is challenging, but they have to be able to do that,” Payton said.

–Field Level Media

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