Taking a closer look at red zone woes for the Broncos

Denver Broncos, Melvin Gordon - Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Melvin Gordon - Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos have looked mediocre in two games so far this season and their troubles in the red zone are a big reason for that.

The Broncos were supposed to be more dynamic on offense and be able to score more points now that Russell Wilson has become the team’s starting quarterback, but so far that has not been the case.

In recent years, the Broncos have been a frustrating offensive mess, unable to score enough points to compete on a regular basis. In two games this year, the Broncos have scored a total of 33 points.

The Broncos were supposed to be just a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender but to this point, are a team that can’t get out of its own way. They are so far 0-for-6 in scoring touchdowns once they have reached the red zone this season.

Here is a closer look at what has gone wrong when they reached the opponents’ 20-yard line so far in 2022.

Broncos’ red-zone possessions through the first two games

Four possessions in Week 1 vs. Seattle Seahawks

Possession 1: Incompletion, False start penalty, Melvin Gordon carries for 5 yards, pass for 6 yards

Possession 2: Pass for 3 yards, Delay of game penalty, pass for 2 yards, pass for 8 yards, fumble

Possession 3: Gordon for no gain, pass for 3 yards, fumble

Possession 4: Incompletion, pass for 7 yards, pass for 6 yards, incompletion, False start penalty, incompletion, incompletion

Two possessions in Week 2 vs. Houston Texans

Possession 1: Incompletion, incompletion, incompletion

Possession 2: Pass for 11 yards, incompletion, Javonte Williams for 4 yards, incompletion, Delay of game penalty

What has gone wrong?

Quite frankly, basically everything.

It starts with the play-calling. Nathaniel Hackett needs to be more reliant on his running attack and especially down at the 1-yard line, use either Williams or Gordon to pound it into the end zone but not out of a shotgun formation, just line up in a power formation and run the ball right at the defense.

Wilson has also been below average inside the 20-yard line of the opposition. On plays inside the red zone, Wilson has completed just 8-of-18 passes (44.4 percent) for 46 yards. He has not thrown a touchdown pass inside the red zone so far.

In addition, the team has been penalized four times inside the red zone for 20 yards against. Penalties have been an absolute disaster for the Broncos so far this season.

Half of the team’s red-zone opportunities have also been set up by long pass interference penalties, so they haven’t done a great job of getting down the field on their own. They didn’t get into the red zone once in the second half of this past Sunday’s game against the Texans.

That is troubling.

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

What needs to be better?

It starts with discipline. In a wildly loud environment like the one the team faced in Seattle, false start penalties here and there are understandable. But the delay of game penalties, largely due to Hackett taking way too long to get his plays in, have to stop.

Then the play calls just need to be better. As stated, the run game in short-yardage situations needs to be trusted. Yes, the team fumbled twice at the 1-yard line against Seattle but on the first of those, Gordon was trying to stretch the ball over the goal line on a fourth down and on the other, Williams took the ball out of a shotgun formation.

That shotgun formation from the 1-yard line, which is trendy in the game these days, needs to come out of the playbook. You need one yard. Line up and get one yard.

In addition, Wilson should try and use his mobility a bit more down in the red zone. That has been completely missing from his repertoire through two games so Hackett should throw in some bootleg plays with double tight ends and not be so focused on all of this RPO out of the shotgun formation stuff.

The Broncos are one of two teams yet to score a red-zone touchdown this season, with the Seahawks being the other.

dark. Next. Free agents Broncos should add to the roster

The Broncos are going to have to change things up because the opponents are going to get much tougher going forward, starting with the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday night.