LONDON – The Broncos changed their routine this week.
They spent the week in London, where they adjusted to the seven o’clock time change and trained at Sir Winston Churchill’s alma mater.
They will also reverse their uniform combination; Denver will don their white jerseys with navy pants on Sunday.
Of course, they also drove on the left side of the road.
Nothing this week has been routine — and the Broncos are also hoping they can get out of the rut their season is currently stuck in.
Amid a four-game losing streak, the Broncos will be aiming for a win over the Jaguars (2-5) to gain some momentum heading into the bye week.
They will aim to do so at the historic Wembley Stadium – but they would be happy with a win no matter where.
“We just want to win the football game,” head coach Nathaniel Hackett said this week. “It doesn’t matter what spotlight we’re in right now. We want to go out there, perform as a team and play at a high level. In this situation for us, especially before a bye, it would be great to get a win It’s going to be a hell of a challenge. Jacksonville is a really good football team. It’s going to take all of us.”
These are the questions that will determine whether the Broncos can earn their third win of the season.
CAN RUSSELL WILSON’S RETURN STRENGTHEN THE BRONCOS’ OFFENSE?
The Broncos averaged the fewest points in the league for seven weeks, and the absence of Russell Wilson in a Week 7 loss only amplified those issues.
In a loss to the Jets, the Broncos failed to break the 10-point mark for the second time this season, and they will need to be much better against the Jaguars.
Wilson will return on Sunday, barring any setbacks, and Denver will look to build on the success it has found in the early games of several recent games. In Wilson’s last start, he completed his first 10 assists as Denver took a 10-0 lead over the Chargers. Wilson also found early success in Denver’s loss to the Raiders.
Hackett said the key to building that success will be focusing on the basics and fundamentals of offense.
“I think that’s what we did right at the start,” Hackett said. “He was able to get a few completions early on. He had a bunch of them in a row. I think it was about nine or 10 in a row for a bunch of different guys. We just want to continue that. We want to spread the ball around of us; we want to be efficient and take the hits when we can take them.”
With or without Wilson, the Broncos need to perform better at all levels of offense to put the team in a position to succeed.
“It’s not just one thing, as you can see,” general manager George Paton said Thursday. “I think [it’s] a lot of novelties – a new coaching staff, a lot of new players, a new quarterback, new schemes. Everything does not go together. I knew it wouldn’t be a well-oiled machine. I thought it would take time. It is, but there are a lot of things we need to work on. Then you have wounds on offense. Our staff try to learn from each other, and our players try to learn from each other. It’s just a lot. No excuses – we have to play better. The offense was not good enough to win games. [The] the defense kept us, but the attack has to play better.”
Against the 10th-ranked Jaguars defense, Wilson and the Broncos will be challenged to find some of that success this weekend in London.
HOW DO BRONCOS HANDLE OUTSIDE NOISE?
The Broncos faced high expectations heading into the season, and they’re now battling the criticism that comes with a 2-5 start.
As the trade deadline approaches, this includes the inevitable trade rumors. Several Broncos players have had their names floated, and while Paton said this weekend’s game won’t impact team decisions, the Broncos’ ability to focus amid those rumors will be essential.
Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is among the players who have been mentioned in the media, but defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said he saw Chubb blocking out the noise this week.
“Locked up,” Evero said of Chubb. “He’s not worried about it. Neither are we. It’s part of the business sometimes. These things happen and we just have to focus on what we control. Right now we’re looking at the Jags.”
Chubb said he would “100%” like to stay with the Broncos, but stressed he remains focused on this weekend’s game.
Paton, for his part, noted that the Broncos hope to keep all of their key players, and he again identified Chubb as part of that group.
To beat the Jaguars, the Broncos will need their key players to be at their best. If Chubb — and other players who were mentioned, like Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler — can stave off the distraction, the Broncos could be on the verge of success.
CAN THE BRONCOS LEARN TO WIN?
It sounds pretty simple and basic, but in reality, the Broncos are always looking to learn how to close games.
“What we’ve learned is that we have to make plays at the end of games to win games,” Paton said. We haven’t done that. In all of our games, we either fumbled a punt or didn’t catch. There’s just a lot of things that come into play. Even last year, I felt this team needed to learn how to win. Unfortunately, we continue to learn.”
There’s no easy way to turn the tide other than to start with just one win. Then, it is possible that a multitude of close matches lean in their direction.
“You have to win to be able to figure that out,” Hackett said. “You look back at every game we’ve had this year. We do it all the time as coaches. It’s a game here, it’s a game there. They just have to learn from it and see how close we really are. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it, but a few games make a game look completely different. They just have to feel it and understand it. Once those games start coming , you can grow from that.
Hackett said he thinks once the Broncos taste success, others could quickly follow.
“Without a doubt,” Hackett said. “That’s the key. In this game, you have to make plays when those are there. Sometimes they’re not there, so you have to create it yourself. That’s part of learning the game, learning how to win consistently. As we always say, sometimes [you] just make a game.”
There’s no quantitative way to measure the Broncos’ ability to learn to win. It’s not as simple as limiting Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence or making timely catches. It’s simply about the ability to find the big play in the big moments.
The Broncos will aim to turn the tide in their favor this weekend against Jacksonville.