Against Indianapolis on Sunday, the run defense didn't play well, the special teams gave up momentum-turning plays and the offense couldn't cash in red-zone opportunities for touchdowns. Denver's flaws led to a 38-20 loss, the Broncos' second straight defeat.
With an important AFC West game against San Diego looming, the Broncos are at a loss on how to fix what ails them.
"Back to the drawing board," linebacker Nate Webster said.
Denver tried some chances on defense, which hasn't been able to stop the run all season. Defensive tackles Sam Adams and Amon Gordon, who started the first three games, were inactive. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Adams was deactivated because Adams didn't match up well against Indianapolis' offense. Gordon was benched because Marcus Thomas and Antwon Burton have outplayed him in games and practice.
Adams, who was brought in to anchor the run defense, didn't know what to say about being deactivated.
"You'd have to ask Mike about all that," Adams said. "I do my job, whatever they ask me to do. I was ready to go."
The changes weren't effective. Indianapolis had 226 rushing yards.
The Colts scored 24 of their 38 points after halftime.
Denver's problem on offense all season hasn't been gaining yards, but finishing long drives. The Broncos had 223 yards rushing but settled for field goals on two of their three trips inside the 20-yard line in the first half.
Not taking advantage of those opportunities cost the Broncos. Despite outplaying Indianapolis for much of the first half, Denver trailed 14-13 at halftime.
The Broncos have not been good in the red zone all season. After the game, Shanahan said Denver couldn't afford to give away points against Indianapolis.
"I thought we controlled the ball, the tempo," Shanahan said. "When you play a team like Indy, especially the way it turned out today, when you have opportunities inside the 20, you got to turn them into touchdowns."
The Broncos' margin of error against the Colts was slim. They were blown out in their last two trips to the RCA Dome, both playoff losses. Denver made a few mistakes, including an interception on its first drive of the second half, which was too much to overcome.
"Whenever you come up here and play the Colts, it's one of those things where you have to play a perfect game," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We didn't today. Maybe in the playoffs."
The Broncos are fortunate to still be tied for first place in the AFC West. The Chargers are also struggling, at 1-3, which makes this week's game at Denver a big one for both teams. The Broncos are aware that they must improve if they're going to beat the Chargers, who swept Denver last year.
"The way we're going right now isn't cutting it," quarterback Jay Cutler said.
--WR Javon Walker didn't play against Indianapolis because of a knee injury. Walker said the knee is irritated and has fluid in it, but the injury is not related to his ACL surgery two years ago.
--WR Glenn Martinez was signed off the practice squad and played in three-receiver sets against the Colts. Martinez has slightly more experience than Domenik Hixon, whose main role is as a kickoff and punt returner.
--S John Lynch was inactive against Indianapolis because of a groin injury. The Broncos didn't want to risk further injury by playing Lynch. He could return next week.
--RB Travis Henry twisted his ankle in the third quarter against Indianapolis. He returned for a few plays in the fourth quarter, and the team thinks he will be fine. Henry had 131 yards against the Colts.
--DT Marcus Thomas bruised his knee against Indianapolis but returned shortly after. Thomas has caught the coaches' attention with some good performances, and supplanted Amon Gordon in the rotation.