Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is tackled by Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) With an anemic offense and a depleted defense, the reigning Super Bowl champs find themselves in a peculiar position: looking up at both Oakland and Kansas City in the AFC West.
The Broncos' 6-3 record would be good enough to lead five other NFL divisions.
Yet, their 30-20 loss at Oakland on Sunday night dropped them behind both the Raiders (7-2) and Chiefs (6-2) in the division they've owned since Tim Tebow was running the read-option in Denver and not the bases in the desert.
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They're battered, too.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe suffered a fractured right elbow, middle linebacker Brandon Marshall wasn't quite himself after returning from a pulled hamstring and cornerback Aqib Talib stayed home after getting a cortisone injection in his lower back.
Talib said he was feeling better, but the Broncos might want to keep him out of next weekend's game at New Orleans, too, so they can take advantage of the bye week and get him ready to return Nov. 27 against Kansas City.
''We know we're in a decent position right now,'' defensive end Jared Crick said. ''By no means is the sky falling on us.''
The Broncos have lost three of five for the first time since the first month of the 2012 season when Peyton Manning was getting a feel for his new team and his post-surgical throwing arm.
They'll learn over the coming weeks whether their latest loss was a speedbump or something much bigger. But getting outgained on the ground 218 yards to 33 shows they were dominated in the trenches, the fulcrum of any football team's fortunes.
''We've just got to find a way to stay on the damn field,'' coach Gary Kubiak said Monday.
He didn't pin the blame on any one player, but did say the solution wasn't swapping quarterback Trevor Siemian, who took some more big hits, for backup Paxton Lynch.
''No, I feel really good about what Trevor's doing,'' Kubiak said. ''But Trevor's like any other player. Trevor's got to get better. So, we're looking at it as a group. I've got to do a better job for Trevor and (quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp) and (offensive coordinator Rick Dennison) do.
''Up front, we've got to do a better job and we can help Trevor running the ball. But he's making a lot of plays. He got us back in the game with a tremendous play to Jordan (Norwood), so he's doing some good things,'' Kubiak said. ''But like all of us, like I said, we're looking to be more consistent.''
The only consistency the Broncos offense has displayed is a season-long trend of playing poorly in the first and third quarters.
Here's how their scoring has broken down:
First quarter: 16 points.
Second quarter; 77 points:
Third quarter: 20 points.
Fourth quarter: 101 points.
The first and third quarters are essentially scripted. Like all teams, the Broncos use their best plays, the ones they've refined all week at practice, to start the game. Then, at halftime they make their adjustments and dig into the playbook to come out with a counter-punch.
Exacerbating matters is that the Broncos have given up points on their first defensive series seven times in nine games, so they're playing catch-up from the get-go.
''Yeah, it's a concern,'' Kubiak said. ''It's a big concern.''
Kubiak insisted it's not a matter of having the wrong players for the right scheme or vice versa.
''I think we've got the guys. We just need to stay focused on what we're doing. I believe in our people. I believe in what we're doing,'' Kubiak said. ''It's been good enough six times and not good enough three times. So, I stay focused on that. There's a lot of football left to play. We just need to keep battling.''
Getting trounced in the trenches was a blow to the Broncos' pride.
''I mean, you can't really wash it away because it's on paper now. But at the end of the day, we're not down on ourselves,'' defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. ''We've got to go out there and have a big week this week.''
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