CARSON, Calif. — After the Denver Broncos 21-0 beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers on a scorching afternoon in southern California, Von Miller stated the obvious: “We obviously have some issues all the way around.”
“There is no way to cut it,” he said at the post game podium after having a respectable individual performance on Sunday afternoon. “You can’t lose two games straight and not have any issues. We obviously have issues that we need to address from the top down.”
And while the majority of Broncos Country point their finger solely to the offensive side of the ball for the team’s embarrassing performance—and understandably so as they were shutout for the first time since 1992—internally, blame was dished out to both the offense and defense for the same problem: turnovers.
"[It] seems like we do the same thing each week; we're giving turnovers, and we're not forcing them,” Chris Harris Jr. said in a tension-filled locker room.
Harris couldn’t be more right, either. On the day, the Broncos’ offense turned the ball over three times while the defense, or special teams, did not cause a single turnover.
On the season, it’s been the exact same story. In Denver’s six games, they’ve won the turnover battle once—in a victorious performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4 in which they forced one turnover while not turning it over—came out even in another and lost it four times, including Sunday against the Chargers.
Denver’s minus-eight turnover differential is almost the worst in the league, approaching the 0-7 Cleveland Browns minus-11 differential.
“We had three turnovers today, which is way too many,” Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph said firmly after the game, adding “That’s unacceptable.”
This was the second-consecutive week Denver’s offense had three turnovers in a game as they reached that mark against the New York Giants in a 23-10 loss last Sunday as well. The most concerning part is that the Broncos’ turnovers have come in a myriad of ways, potentially making it more difficult to make a quick fix to.
The first turnover of the game came on the Broncos’ first possession of the game. After a 23-yard catch and run by A.J. Derby, Chargers’ safety Adrian Phillips stripped the tight end of the football just before he hit the ground, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
In the second quarter, quarterback Trevor Siemian had the ball popped out from behind him when he was moving outside the pocket. Los Angeles recovered. The third, and final, turnover of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Siemian lobbed the ball in the air on fourth down, which found the hands of Chargers’ cornerback Casey Hayward.
“We got to figure it out,” Siemian said simply after the game.
On the other side of the ball, while it didn’t come across as ugly as the offensive side, the defenses inability to cause turnovers is starting to become nearly as big of an issue for the team’s success.
“We got to create turnovers. We got to get turnovers,” the star pass rusher Miller emphasized over and over again after the game. “The problem is a tough problem to solve. There are so many different ways to get turnovers, and we aren’t getting any of them. We obviously have to create turnovers. We have to create a short field for our offense.”
In six games, the vaunted Broncos’ defense has caused a total of four turnovers—an average of less than one per game. Denver has only caused multiple turnovers in only one game—in a Week 2 win against the Dallas Cowboys in which they forced two turnovers—while being held without a turnover in half of their contests.
"We got to make plays—we have playmakers all across the field,” Miller stated with a hint of confusion as to why Denver hasn’t been able to create more turnovers. “Aqib Talib is a pick-six machine. I’m a sack machine. Chris Harris—we have guys that can create turnovers… We got to be able to make plays to put our offense in better position.”
Entering Sunday night, the Broncos’ four turnovers were tied for the second-fewest in the league, only one ahead of the Atlanta Falcons’ three.
“I have to make game-changing plays. I’m a turnover machine, and I’ve got to get going,” Miller stressed.
Since Week 2’s two-turnover performance against the Cowboys, Denver’s defense has constantly said the turnovers will come. After yet another night in which they didn’t have any, Miller preached the same message: “The turnovers will come. I know we’ve been saying it for six weeks now.”
Depending on how long it takes for the turnovers to come on defense, and stop on offense, very well could determine the fate of the Broncos.
Turnover differential typically tells the tale for a team in a season, and with 12 giveaways to only four takeaways, the Broncos’ 3-3 record after six games would suggest they are lucky to be .500.