The Denver Broncos are one of two NFL teams that have not converted any red zone trips into touchdowns through two games this season (the Seattle Seahawks have also been limited to field goals and turnovers inside the 20-yard line).
In their season opener, the Broncos went 0-4 in the red zone, with two fumbles lost at the goal line, two potential touchdown passes botched and another touchdown toss negated by a pre-snap penalty.
Then against the Houston Texans in Week 2, Denver went 0-2 inside the 20-yard line, making them 0-6 in the red zone so far this season.
The team’s execution (failing to keep feet in bounds, failing to hold onto the ball or committing penalties) is partly to blame for the red zone woes, but coach Nathaniel Hackett is also at fault. Hackett has called multiple shotgun formation plays from the one-yard line and numerous passing plays inside the five-yard line despite having a productive rushing attack.
Hackett defended some of the team’s decisions to throw the ball after Sunday’s 16-9 win, but he also admitted that the team needs to be able to punch it in on the ground near the end zone.
“When we got down there, we wanted to give Courtland [Sutton] a chance, early,” the coach said. “It looked like we had the touchdown, that they ended up calling out. Then had the same thing, ‘Russ’ decided to throw that one on that and we gave him the go on that one. We didn’t come down with it.
“Then when you are in a third down situation, we decided to pass it and that was just that first one. There were definitely some things that we liked in the pass game because of how they put everybody in the box. But in the end, we have to be able to run it down there, we have to run down the hill, and might have to run over somebody.”
Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is confident that the team’s self-inflicted miscues in the red zone can — and will — be corrected.
“We’ve had — when you think about the red zone, it comes down to making a crazy catch, a crazy run, a crazy play. That’s what it is,” the QB said. “We almost had one to Courtland today. We had a few the last game that he was maybe two inches — maybe a half an inch out of bounds on the spread right or whatever.
“A couple of plays here we went offsides and flipped last week for a touchdown — [Andrew] Beck walked into the end zone [if not for a penalty]. It really comes down to these minuscule things and we’re growing together and we’re going to fix that.”
Denver is 1-1 and now set to face its toughest test of the season so far, a showdown with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football in Week 3. If the Broncos are going to beat teams better than the Texans, they’re going to need to find a way to score touchdowns in the red zone.