First, they dealt with the weather. Now, it’s the whether.
The spiraling Denver Broncos, who suffered a 23-20 loss to the Rams in bitter-cold conditions Sunday, now have to decide whether they keep Vance Joseph as coach.
A Thursday night game at Arizona figures to be a critical factor in that decision for a team that has lost four in a row and just made history the wrong way. The Broncos are the first NFL team torched by 200-yard rushers in consecutive weeks, yielding a career-high 208 to Todd Gurley on Sunday.
John Elway, Denver’s president and general manager, on Monday said the defense has gotten “very soft” and implored the Broncos to approach Thursday’s game like “we’re fighting for our lives.”
Joseph, asked by reporters if he took that to mean he’s fighting for his job, said, “Absolutely.”
“And that's every coach in this league every week,” he continued. “If you don't feel that way, you're missing something. If we were 5-1, I would feel that way. That doesn't motivate me. I'm already motivated to win games and to fix our football team.”
In one-plus seasons under Joseph, the Broncos are 1-9 on the road, losing those nine games by an average of 16.6 points. The Cardinals are 1-5.
Joseph will find a sympathetic soul in Arizona, albeit one who doesn’t want him to win. Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was canned from that same position by the Broncos last year.
The Cardinals’ offense has been one of the worst, and new coach Steve Wilks on Monday said “All our jobs are in jeopardy, including mine, if we don't win."
Meeting of the minds
NFL owners will gather in New York this week for their annual fall meetings, and one of the issues will be modifying the league’s cross-ownership rules.
As it stands, an owner is barred from owning an NFL team in one market and a different type of professional sports team in another NFL market. So, for instance, Rams owner Stan Kroenke had to put the Denver Nuggets in a family trust. Why? Because the league wants to put NFL owners in direct competition with each other for the sports dollar in a given market. (Of course, that’s unavoidable in New York and Los Angeles, which are two-team NFL markets.)
Tweaking the NFL ownership rules would help the league cast a wider net when it comes to franchise sales, which, in theory, would cause club values to climb. The league would have liked a larger pool of billionaires bidding on the Carolina Panthers, for instance, when that team was sold this year.
Among the other matters on the agenda for the meetings are updates on TV ratings, health and safety issues, and a briefing from the competition committee about the record scoring pace this season.
There were a couple of interesting tidbits from Miami’s 31-28 overtime victory at Chicago. The game ended on a 47-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jason Sanders. That was the second-longest field goal in overtime by a rookie since the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein booted a game-winning 54-yarder in 2012.
At least one game per week has gone to overtime this season, the first time in NFL history that’s happened through Week 6.
Running hot and cold
Not so long ago, this week’s classic matchup between Dallas and Washington looked like a dog. Neither team has been consistent, with the Redskins’ wins and losses reading W, L, W, L, W and the Cowboys going L, W, L, W, L, W.
But now, both teams are coming off impressive victories. The Redskins topped Carolina 23-17 and the Cowboys humiliated Jacksonville, among the league’s better teams 40-7.
Thielen’s record run
Minnesota’s Adam Thielen, who reeled in 11 catches in a 27-17 win over Arizona, not only leads the league with 58 receptions, but he also is the first player in the Super Bowl era to record at least 100 yards receiving in each of his team’s first six games.
If Thielen were to hit the century mark again Sunday against the New York Jets, he would match the seven-game streak set by Charley Hennigan in 1961.
Conner’s run done?
Pittsburgh has a bye this week, and speculation is swirling that star holdout Le’Veon Bell could be returning to the Steelers before they play Cleveland on Oct. 28. Surely, there will be more twists and turns to that tiresome soap opera.
Regardless, Bell’s replacement, James Conner, had an impressive game Sunday in a 28-21 win at Cincinnati. He ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the fifth player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to record 100 yards rushing and at least two rushing touchdowns in three of his team’s first six games.
In praising Conner after the game, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger coyly joked that a change is imminent.
“He was a bowling ball today,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “He was all over the place. What a great game, but I know it’s his last game for us, so, because Le’Veon is coming back. I thought he did well in his last one.”