Englewood, Colo. • The Denver Broncos figure they'll emerge from their funk if they can get their quarterback to get rid of the ball faster and find ways to make opposing quarterbacks hold onto it just a smidge longer.
The Broncos (3-3) have lost three of their last four while getting outscored by an average of 20-10.
Trevor Siemian has been sacked 22 times this season, putting him on pace for 58 sacks, nearly double what he sustained last year (31).
Some of it is protection problems. He has a rookie left tackle in Garett Bolles and a revolving door of right tackles. Last week, veteran guard Allen Barbre had to play the position after three tackles got hurt in a five-day span.
Some of Siemian's sacks are because he's holding onto the ball too long.
"It's all different reasons," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Friday. "Is somebody not open? Did he miss a progression possibly? Did somebody miss a block? There's a number of different things for each play. It's not just the same thing. There's times he might slide in the pocket when he thinks he can go a certain way instead of stepping up.
"So, there's a number of things. It's not just one thing. It's not just one player. It's all of us. And I can do some things better, too. ... I've got to do a better job."
Like running fewer three-receiver sets when his tackles are getting trounced like they were last week when Siemian was hit 10 times in a 21-0 loss to the Chargers, their first shutout in 25 years. A shot by Melvin Ingram left Siemian with a black and blue nose.
"Mel got him pretty good on the one," McCoy said. "That says a lot about Trev and the toughness and the way he fought through those things when you're getting hit like that. So, we've got to do a better job of protecting him and make good, quick decisions with the football to get it out on time and everyone needs to be held accountable for that. We're all in that together, it's not just one guy, one position. It's all 11."
In 50 possessions covering their last four games, the Broncos (3-3) have scored just three touchdowns and made seven field goals. They've also missed three field goal attempts, lost three fumbles, turned the ball over on downs five times and thrown five interceptions to go with 20 punts and five instances where time ran out on them.
On Monday night, they'll travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs (5-2), who are very good at getting the ball out quickly.
Alex Smith had 15 touchdown throws and zero interceptions. Kareem Hunt leads the league in rushing after fumbling away his first NFL carry — the Chiefs' only turnover through seven games.
Denver's defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL but the Broncos have just four takeaways and have yet to force, much less recover, a fumble.
"You have to keep emphasizing it in practice, and that's what we've been doing so far this week in practice," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. "And that's what you have to do: you have to keep plugging away. It's effort to the ball, taking advantage of your opportunities. And teams are throwing the ball quick against us, so we haven't had that many opportunities, but so we definitely have to take advantage when we do."
The Broncos are expecting a boost with the return of outside linebacker Shane Ray from a broken left wrist he sustained when training camp began in late July.
"He had a great offseason. It was just unfortunate what happened to him," Woods said. "We will find a way to get him out on the field, come up with some different packages and put some more heat on the passer."
Von Miller has collected sacks in five consecutive games but is still facing constant double- and triple-teams, and the Broncos figure Ray's return will take the heat off their superstar.
Ray will play with a cast but not a club, allowing him to grab and shred offensive linemen.
"With the cast he has full range with his fingers and that's the most important thing," Woods said. "It's not a club over the top of his hands. He can still push off, shed blocks and he feels really comfortable with the cast they put on."