GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Denver Broncos’ search for their first victory under coach Vic Fangio continues. And their latest loss was yet another gut-punch. The Broncos were left shaking their heads, expressing frustration while vowing to turn things around, after a 27-16 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday that might have been a win if not for a few mistakes.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” linebacker Bradley Chubb said. “If we just play a game at 100% together, I feel like we would be special. We’re playing as a team for 95% of the time. We’ve just got to make it 100% and it’s going to go in our favor, I feel like.”
The Broncos hired Fangio to replace Vance Joseph coming off back-to-back losing records for the first time since the 1970s, hoping he could turn things around after transforming Chicago’s defense into one of the league’s best as coordinator the previous four years. They’re 0-3 in their worst start since the 1999 team dropped its first four games. But they could just as easily have a few victories by now.
The past two games have been particularly rough.
They lost to Chicago on a 53-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro as time expired after a second was put back on the clock following a 25-yard reception by Allen Robinson.
Against Green Bay (3-0), they kept Rodgers mostly in check after he threw a 40-yard touchdown toss to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the game’s opening drive and dominated in time of possession 35:34-24:26. But they allowed Joe Flacco to get sacked six times and committed three turnovers, leading to 14 points for the Packers.
A strip-sack by Preston Smith and recovery by Rashan Gary gave the Packers the ball on the Denver 5. Two plays later, Aaron Jones scored from the 7 to make it 17-10.
Another turnover early in the third led to another touchdown for Green Bay.
Jaire Alexander ripped the ball out of Noah Fant’s hands following a short pass for his first career forced fumble and his first recovery. The Packers took over at the Denver 37, leading to a 1-yard touchdown for Jones that boosted the lead to 14.
But it’s not just the turnovers that the Broncos committed. It’s the sacks and takeaways they’re not getting. They have zero through three games — stunning for a defense led by Von Miller and Chubb and designed by Fangio.
“I have to say, this is one of the cleanest games my jersey has ever looked,” Rodgers said. “I took basically one shot. I hit the ground one time. So I’m ecstatic. I’ve been at this for a long time. To go home with my body feeling this good is a credit to the offensive line, for sure.”
Fangio was at a loss to explain it, after coordinating a defense in Chicago that led the league in takeaways and tied for third in sacks last season. With Miller and Chubb leading the way, he figured to get plenty of pressure on the quarterback. But the sacks and takeaways just haven’t come.
That’s a surprise considering Miller had 14½ sacks last season, giving him 98 since he entered the NFL in 2011, while Chubb registered 12 as a rookie.
“You’ve got the solution?” Fangio said.
To that, a reporter responded: “You get paid the big bucks.”
“Yeah, that’s three games in a row, that’s no good, obviously,” Fangio said. “And it is the circumstances of the game to a degree, this game in some ways was similar to our first two. Until we can stop people more decisively and score more points, teams are going to be content playing these types of games.”
Miller said the opportunities were there for him Sunday.
“I can sit here and make all type of excuses,” he said. “I got clean rushes today, that was different from last week and the week before. I got some rushes today, I’ve just got to find a way to get the quarterback on the ground.”
Emmanuel Sanders made his frustration clear after being targeted four times and catching two passes for 10 yards. The two-time Pro Bowl receiver was a key figure on Denver’s 2015 Super Bowl championship team. And he’d like to see a few more balls thrown his way.
“Times are rough around here,” Sanders said. “Obviously, the past few years have been tough. We’re trying to get it right. … Football is still fun. But it’s not so much fun when you’re losing, especially when you prepare as hard as you can. You go out, have four targets and two catches for 10 yards. There’s always next week, so I’m optimistic then.”
By ANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer
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