CHICAGO — All it takes is one.
As the Broncos prepare for a Week 4 matchup with the Chicago Bears, Denver’s leaders have preached the importance of finding the first victory — and then riding that momentum to more success.
“One’s a streak, and as soon as you get one, things start falling into place, guys start believing a little bit more and the process just continues on,” tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It’s only September. We’ve got a long way to go in this thing.”
Despite an 0-3 start, Head Coach Sean Payton said he believed the Broncos “had one of our better weeks” in practice ahead of a critical game against the Bears (0-3).
“I thought the energy was good,” Payton said. “You pick yourself up. This is a grit league with toughness required. I thought [it went] well.”
As Denver looks to get in the win column, here’s a look at a question for the Broncos to answer, a matchup to watch and a stat to know.
ONE BIG QUESTION:
Can Russell Wilson and Co. take advantage through the air?
While the Broncos remain in search of their first win, quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver’s offense have showed signs of promise through the first three weeks. Entering Sunday, Wilson is tied for fifth in touchdown passes and ranks eighth in passing yards. He’s also tied with Patrick Mahomes for fifth in passer rating among starting quarterbacks.
The Broncos will need to earn touchdowns in the red zone — a pair of penalties wiped scores off the board in Week 3 — but they’ve been efficient at moving the ball. Through three weeks, Denver ranks in the top 10 in red-zone scoring opportunities.
With three of Chicago’s defensive backs ruled out for Sunday — including starters Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson — Wilson and the Broncos’ offense may be able to find success in the passing game.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Justin Fields vs. Denver’s defense
The Bears’ young quarterback and Chicago’s offense have struggled in the early weeks of the 2023 season, but the dual-threat quarterback remains a challenge to opposing defenses.
In 2022, he ran for eight touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards — and he’s found success throwing the deep ball through the first three weeks of this season.
According to Next-Gen Stats, Fields has completed 6-of-14 passes of more than 20 air yards — and those completions have resulted in 147 yards, two touchdowns and a 121.1 passer rating. On attempts of less than 20 yards, his passer rating is just 56.1 and he’s posted a 1-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“He’s a special athlete and can make every throw,” Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said. “As a passer, he can make every throw — outside, vertical and inside the numbers. As a runner, he’s dynamic. He can break tackles, he’s not sliding, and he can make you miss. He’s a challenge to rush four and hope you can contain him or rush five, and he can make every throw. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, but he’s obviously a gifted player. It’ll be a challenge to get him stopped.”
The Broncos have allowed opposing passers to post a combined 155.8 passer rating on attempts of at least 10 air yards in 2023, and Joseph said the defense must shore up its play at all three levels of the defense as the Broncos move forward.
If safety Justin Simmons is able to return after being listed as questionable, he could help turn the tide in Denver’s favor.
STAT TO KNOW:
The Broncos’ last three meetings with the Bears have been decided by three points or fewer, including Denver’s last trip to Chicago. That 17-15 win in 2015 marked the first start of Brock Osweiler’s career and kick-started a run that helped Denver maintain control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Denver’s first two games this season were determined by a total of three points. Could another close game be in store for the Broncos?