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Broncos' defense needs QBs to stay healthy, not let them down

NFL

The Broncos were not in any way lucky to be 4-0 going into Sunday’s game against the Falcons. That defense earned each of those wins. That defense is going to win a lot more games before this is over.

But that defense can’t win ‘em all. The Broncos’ quarterbacks have to progress a lot from now on to keep them on t

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rack to repeat as Super Bowl champions. 

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They needed help at quarterback Sunday, and Paxton Lynch wasn’t ready to give it to them. That’s not his fault — he wasn’t supposed to be playing yet, and he wasn’t expected to be ready this early. His protection failed him a lot, and at this stage of his development he needs championship-level protection. 

In shutting the Broncos’ offense down and winning 23-16 in Denver, the Falcons did everything they should have been able to do against a limited offense and an overmatched quarterback.

The big question, though, is whether a healthy Trevor Siemian can take the weight off the Broncos’ defense. Can the Broncos win because of him, instead of hoping to win with him at best, and in spite of him if necessary?

It’s early. There’s time for both quarterbacks to grow into the job. They have pieces to work with, of course. But the Falcons game was a disaster. 

Yes, the Falcons’ defense is probably being underestimated right now, especially with the pyrotechnics from the offense every week. Statistically they were awful, but a lot of the yardage against them in the past two games, wins over the Saints and Panthers, came after the offense staked them to huge leads. They’ve contributed plenty to their 4-1 start. 

But they shouldn’t have been able to smother the Broncos the way they did.

Except that, realistically, they really should have, because this is what the Broncos' offense is capable of being. Even when they got close late and started strategizing about field goals and onside kicks, the offense never looked like a genuine threat to put up points.

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They’ve looked that way at times with Siemian, too. Yet it was clear from the beginning that they needed to keep him on the field — because for now they don’t have other options. The glimpses of why Lynch ended up being a first-round pick — and why the Broncos and the Cowboys wanted to move up to get him — were there from time to time. 

But pressing him into service in Week 5 was trouble. 

So, yes, they need Siemian. But they need him to up his game, too. The Falcons found a way to get what they needed against that defense. It’s not necessarily a blueprint to beat them, because not every offense can attack you like the Falcons’ can. Other teams will figure out their own ways, though.

Maybe in their own division. The Raiders caught them in the standings by winning Sunday. The Chiefs will make their presence known. The rest of the AFC is aiming for them.

The Broncos can’t afford to go all the way hoping they’ll be good enough to overcome their quarterback situation. 

On Sunday, they weren’t.