Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Broncos special-teams concerns, Derek Wolfe’s take, A.J. Derby’s development and more

November 29, 2016

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has a list of concerns about his team that seems to grow by the week.

After Sunday’s overtime loss to the Chiefs, special teams became a glaring concern after an array of mistakes that included multiple holdings calls on punts, two muffed punts by Jordan Norwood, an illegal formation penalty on a Chiefs field goal attempt, and a Broncos free kick that Tyreek Hill returned 86 yards for a touchdown.

“That’s really disappointing because that had been a consistency for us,” Kubiak said. “There have been a couple of times here in the last month where we have not played well on special teams. … There are two phases of the game. Field position, we lost that phase of the game and we lost the turnover battle in that phase of the game, too. It’s very disappointing. We need to rebound.”

Critical stretch. The pressure is on high after the divisional loss. If the playoffs started this week, the Broncos wouldn’t be in the postseason field. Which means their final five games are raised in importance.

But defensive end Derek Wolfe said the pressure would have been there even after a win.

“We’re the type of team where we don’t feel pressure, we try to apply it,” he said. “That’s something that we’re going to have to emphasize. … It happened last year. We were in the same type of situation. The margin for error is not there. We can’t be messing up. We can’t be making mistakes.”

Derby’s development. Among the bright spots for the Broncos’ offense Sunday night was tight end A.J. Derby’s involvement. Derby, who was acquired in a trade with New England in October, caught all four targets for a season-high 43 yards. One of those catches was for 13 yards on a critical third down in the fourth quarter that led to Bennie Fowler’s touchdown.

“(We’re) excited about how far he’s come since we’ve gotten him,” Kubiak said. “Obviously, he’ll continue to take more of a part of what we’re doing, but (he) makes a lot of plays (and) he catches the ball well. He can improve in the physical part. Blocking and those types of things are the things that we need him to improve upon, but I think that he has a chance to be a really good player.”

Tale of two halves. Weak pass protection upfront stalled the Broncos’ offense and left quarterback Trevor Siemian little to time to create much of anything in the first half Sunday. So what changed in the second half?

“In the first half, we couldn’t hold the ball to throw anything, to be honest with you,” Kubiak said. “In the second half we found a way to get the ball down the field a little bit and make some plays. We stood committed to the run even though we were down. We didn’t run the ball great, but we ran the ball enough that we could still run play-action. He played extremely well. He made a lot of plays. He made a lot of plays with his feet.”

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