Broncos Offense Stuck in Neutral

Keenum has two interceptions and no touchdown passes as Broncos offense has averaged 17 points over the last two games

The Denver Broncos upgraded their offense by pursuing and signing free-agent Case Keenum to be the starting quarterback. Three games have yielded mixed results for the Denver offense.

Keenum had three touchdown passes in Denver debut but also threw three interceptions in the 27-24 win over Seattle on Sept. 9. He hasn’t thrown for a score since, and the Broncos offense is stuck in a rut. Keenum, who has two interceptions in the past two games, is only partly to blame for the team averaging just 17 points in the last two games, coach Vance Joseph said Monday.

“After watching the film two or three times, it was a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” Joseph said. “Offensively, I thought we moved the ball OK. We were in the scoring zones a lot and the penalties pushed us out of scoring zones. That’s disappointing. Most of it was good calls.”

Tackle Garrett Bolles had two crucial holding calls that helped stall drives in Baltimore territory on Sunday. The Broncos (2-1) had 13 penalties for 120 yards overall, which helped kill scoring opportunities. One came on a block in the back by Domata Peko Sr. that happened well behind the play to negate Chris Harris Jr.’s touchdown return of a blocked field goal.

“I’ve got to just man up to it and be smarter. Next time that happens, just don’t even run,” Peko told reporters Monday. “Just stop and let them go. But I was just hustling, doing what I’m taught to do, finishing the play and running down. Just trying to get a block.”

Denver’s only scores in a 27-14 loss to Baltimore came on Royce Freeman’s six-yard run on the first play after a blocked punt, and Emmanuel Sanders’ 35-yard sweep. Those scores came on the Broncos’ first two possessions. They finished the game with seven straight punts, an interception and a loss on downs.

Keenum was under pressure for much of the day and was hurried into a few bad passes. However, he hasn’t lost Joseph’s confidence.

“Case is going to play better and better with time. He missed practice on Wednesday this week and that could have affected how fast he played with the ball,” Joseph said. “But I am not concerned. He does so many good things during the game, it keeps you hopeful that he’s going to play better and better as we go along here. That’s a tough defense to prepare for. They gave us some different looks that we weren’t prepared for. We adjusted, obviously. He didn’t play perfect, but he didn’t play bad either.”

FRIENDLY SKIES: Denver won Super Bowl 50 with a dominant defense featuring with two shutdown corners and a fierce pass rush. The players in the secondary dubbed their unit the “No Fly Zone,” but lately it has been open for business for opposing quarterbacks.

In Week 2 Oakland Derek Carr set an NFL completion record with a 29-for-32 performance, and Sunday Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was 25 of 40 for 277 yards and found open receivers all afternoon.

Injuries played a part. Cornerback Adam Jones was inactive with a thigh injury and Tramaine Brock, who was the third cornerback in Jones’s absence, left the game with a left groin strain, forcing rookie Isaac Yiadom into action.

Harris told reporters after Sunday’s loss that the secondary has to do a better job of disguising coverages. It will be imperative when Kansas City’s Pat Mahomes is under center on Monday night.

Mahomes has 13 touchdown passes in his first three games and looks like an early MVP candidate for the 3-0 Chiefs. He will be a stern test for the Denver defense.

“They’ve got an explosive offense right now and their defense is making plays, too,” nose tackle Shelby Harris told reporters on Monday. “For us, we’ve just got to go out there and play our game.”