It’s do-or-die time for the Denver Broncos.
Heading into Thursday night’s match-up with the similarly reeling Arizona Cardinals, Denver have run out of any margin for error.
Coming off four straight losses, the Broncos are not only in danger of falling into an insurmountable hole in terms of the AFC playoff picture, but are heading towards back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1972.
Head coach Vance Joseph is on the chopping block. General manager and franchise legend John Elway has been vocal about the team’s disappointment.
Beating the Cardinals may not turn around Denver’s season, but in the context of everything that’s happening with the Broncos, it is a must-win.
Especially after Von Miller guaranteed a victory with a bold proclamation on Tuesday, saying: “I wouldn’t say it’s a must-win, but we’re going to kick their a**, though.”
If Denver are going to play better, it’s going to have to start with Miller and the run defence.
The unit became the first defence in league history to allow a 200-yard rusher in consecutive weeks after Isaiah Crowell burned them for 219 yards and Todd Gurley gashed them for 208.
In total, the Broncos have surrendered an eye-popping 593 rushing yards the past two games, and on Thursday they get one of the best running backs in the league in David Johnson.
Fortunately for Denver, the Cardinals have had the worst ground game this season, ranking dead last in yards per game (64.0) and yards per attempt (3.2).
With quarterback Case Keenum under heavy scrutiny, the Broncos could focus on the run on the other side of the ball as well.
Denver should look to put the ball in the hands of their rookie ball-carriers Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to attack Arizona’s defence, which is allowing the most rushing yards per game (151.2) after the Broncos.
That would help take the pressure off Keenum, who is tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight.
The coaching staff will have to call a better game than they did the past three weeks, when they’ve dialed up 125 passes to just 54 runs.
More than just a change to their record, Denver have their pride and potentially jobs on the line in Thursday’s encounter.
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