ENGLEWOOD – Things got so bad at Baltimore for the Denver Broncos that left tackle Garett Bolles had more tackles than Von Miller.
Three times, Bolles was beaten by Terrell Suggs and rather than give up another sack, he simply tackled the Ravens’ ageless pass rusher who still managed 1½ sacks, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in a 27-14 win over the Broncos (2-1).
Bolles was whistled for two costly holding penalties, one erasing a 39-yard catch by Demaryius Thomas and another at the Baltimore 5-yard line that preceded Case Keenum’s fifth interception so far.
Miller was held in check with just two tackles.
After declaring on Friday that “last year’s team is dead and gone,” coach Vance Joseph’s remodeled bunch hit the road for the first time and promptly bared many of those same flaws that led to their downfall in 2017.
The Broncos’ 13 penalties marked the most by Denver since Week 8 at Philadelphia last season and their 120 yards were the most in 41 games, since a Week 15 loss at Pittsburgh in 2015.
“After watching the film two or three times, it was a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” Joseph said Monday, noting that he didn’t have a problem with the calls that included an ejection of rookie running back Phillip Lindsay for throwing a punch in the pile.
“I couldn’t see if he threw a punch or not,” Joseph said. “But I saw him dive into the pile, which is illegal.”
Joseph said the Broncos, who host unbeaten Kansas City (3-0) next Monday night, “have to own the penalties.”
That includes the one that referee Ronald Torbert inadvertently blamed on Broncos tackle Billy Turner – who wasn’t even on the field – for a block-in-the-back foul that negated Chris Harris Jr.’s TD return of a blocked field goal try.
The foul was actually on nose tackle Domata Peko some 20 yards behind Harris.
“I’ve got to be smarter. Next time that happens, just don’t even run, just stop and let them go,” Peko said. “But I was just hustling, doing what I’m taught to do and finishing the play, running down and just trying to get a block, man.
“But it seems like the way the league is going now you can’t really hit people the way you want to anymore, and so I’ve just got to be smarter.”
Even though it was on the wrong player, Joseph said, “it was a good call.”
What wasn’t, by his own admission, was Joseph’s decision to burn two timeouts late in the first half so Denver could get the ball back at their 15 with under a minute left in a steady rain.
Another three-and-out by the Broncos and another short punt by Marquette King set up the Ravens for a last-second field goal and a 20-14 halftime lead.
“That’s totally on me,” Joseph said.
A week after criticizing Joe Woods’ defensive game plan for having his cornerbacks give too much cushion to Oakland’s receivers, Joseph watched his defense do the very same thing at Baltimore.
“We stopped the run again. They averaged 2.8 yards a carry, but the passing game obviously gave us problems,” Joseph said. “We’ve got to challenge more at the corner position and make more plays. If teams want to throw the ball that quick, we have to play closer in coverage and make some plays early. That way our pass rush can get there.
“But it’s a blueprint on tape right now the last three weeks: throw it quick, challenge the DBs and keep Von Miller and (first-round draft pick Bradley) Chubb at bay by throwing it quick.”
A frustrated Harris said Denver’s defense needs to better camouflage its intentions so quarterbacks like Joe Flacco can’t pick them apart: “We’ve got to disguise better as a team. Try to confuse them. Try not to give them easy looks.”
Joseph concurred, saying, “We can help those guys with more looks and more coverage packages.”
Despite a blocked punt and a blocked field goal, the special teams didn’t escape Joseph’s aggravation.
“As a punt unit we were not very good,” Joseph said. “We gave them the ball twice at midfield. We gave them the ball once after a return and a sideline penalty on (rookie cornerback) Isaac Yiadom, who wasn’t even in the game.”
Yiadom would soon go in, replacing Tramaine Brock (groin), who was subbing for Adam Jones (thigh).
Both are expected back at practice Wednesday, Joseph said.