Broncos will adjust practice schedule to try to repair red zone issues

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In search of more touchdowns on offense, Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph is going to tweak the team’s practice schedule in the weeks ahead in hopes of getting more efficient in the red zone.

That’s because the Broncos’ work there has been a hot button issue the last two games, even as the team has powered out to a 3-1 start after Sunday’s 16-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders. But over the last two games, the Broncos are 1-for-7 in finishing drives inside their opponents’ 20-yard line with touchdowns.

“It’s been self-inflicted wounds, it’s been false starts, it’s been batted balls,’’ Joseph said. “We’re at the 5-yard line [Sunday] and we get a false start. ... It’s more of what we’re doing to ourselves.’’

“We just have to make plays, us as playmakers make plays,’’ Broncos running back C.J. Anderson said. “Some things on us that we have to find a way to put the ball in the [end zone] and bury teams. We don’t want to keep games close like that. We need to bury them.’’

As a result, Joseph said he once again watched video Monday morning of the team’s red zone work in practice in the days leading up to the loss against the Buffalo Bills and in the days leading up to Sunday’s win over the Raiders. And Joseph said, after watching it live as it happened in practice and rewatching it multiple times on video, he didn’t like what he saw.

“It’s more how we practice,’’ Joseph said. “Our Thursday practice is basically third downs, red zone, goal line and short yardage. Our last period is red zone. And I’ve watched it for the last two weeks and it’s not very good. And that’s my fault. So I’m going to move red zone up so we can get more energy there.’’

Joseph added that he believed “the concepts are there, running the football is there,’’ so that the issues are more detail oriented than in the team’s scheme.

But the last two games haven’t been pretty after the Broncos have done the work to get the offense inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Against the Buffalo Bills, the Broncos surrendered sacks on back-to-back plays in one red zone trip, and tackle Menelik Watson had a false-start penalty on a third-and-7 play from the Bills’ 10-yard line in another drive.

Both of those possessions ended in field goals instead of touchdowns in a game the Broncos led into the third quarter before losing, 26-16.

Sunday against the Raiders, the Broncos were 0-for-4 in red zone trips. In one of those drives, left tackle Garett Bolles had a false start penalty on a third-and-goal from the Raiders’ 5-yard line. On another drive, quarterback Trevor Siemian had a pass deflected on a play that started at the Raiders’ 4-yard line that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders caught for a 10-yard loss. Kicker Brandon McManus missed a 29-yard field goal attempt three plays after the 10-yard loss.

In either case, a Broncos touchdown likely would have put the game out of reach. Instead, Broncos safety Justin Simmons had to make a leaping interception with just over two minutes to play Sunday to nail down the win.

“I think we’re hurting ourselves down there,’’ Siemian said. “We have to find a way to get touchdowns instead of field goals. I thought the first week we did a good job of that. We’ll figure it out, clean it up on the bye and be ready to go.”