ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Case Keenum agrees he’s gone from being too careless with the football to being too cautious.
Denver’s quarterback said Tuesday he concurs with head coach Vance Joseph that he needs to take more downfield chances if the Broncos (6-7) are to have any chance of reaching the playoffs.
“Yeah, I mean we’re at the point of the season where we’ve got to make plays. We’ve got to score points,” Keenum said. “… I can’t get caught back there with the ball in my hands. And I’ve got to give guys chances down the field.”
Keenum hasn’t thrown an interception in his last five starts after throwing 10 in his first eight games in Denver, but his passing numbers are pedestrian lately. He’s averaged just 178 yards passing in his last three games and he’s already been sacked a career-high 30 times.
So, Keenum said he’ll balance ball security with the risk-reward of taking his chances down the seams beginning Saturday night against the Cleveland Browns (5-7-1).
“In general, that’s a good mindset to have,” Keenum said. “And I think … continuing to be smart with the ball but giving guys chances when we feel like it’s a good matchup or good, advantageous time to take a shot or take a chance down the field.”
Keenum was scolded early on for throwing too many interceptions, including three against Seattle in the opener. After going all of November and half of December without getting picked off, he’s now drawing criticism for being too conservative.
It comes with the territory, Keenum said.
“I mean, quarterback is a tough position to play, and that’s why I play it. I love the challenge of it,” Keenum said. “I love how much goes into it. And how my entire life I have absolutely loved having the ball in my hands, making decisions and really being a big part of why my team wins.
“And that’s what I want to be. I want to win. I’m a winner. I’m competitive to a fault and I think that’s what partly drives me and makes me who I am. So, yeah, I take it on myself that I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to play better. I’ve got to give my guys chances down the field and that’s it.”
Making his task harder is an injury epidemic that has nearly dismantled Denver’s offense.
Keenum is playing behind a line that consists of converted guard Connor McGovern at center and four tackles, including Billy Turner at left guard and Elijah Wilkinson at right guard, following season-ending injuries to Matt Paradis, Ronald Leary and Max Garcia.
Tight ends Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman all are on IR and Keenum lost his two favorite receivers, Demaryius Thomas to a trade and Emmanuel Sanders to a ruptured Achilles.
Now, his No. 1 receiver is rookie Courtland Sutton, but he missed Tuesday’s walkthrough practice with a thigh injury, making fellow rookie DaeSean Hamilton his flanker du jour.
So, even if Keenum heeds his coach’s admonition to start taking more chances downfield, there’s no guarantee his raw receivers or young tight ends will make the emphasis a success.
“I’ve said that early on, that it takes time to work with guys, but you know this is the NFL,” Keenum said. “It’s the nature of the business and how it goes and heck, I’ve had a lot of work with Courtland, with DaeSean and Timmy (Patrick). Those guys, we’ve been here since the spring and worked during the summer. So, we put a lot of investment into the bank and we want to keep making withdrawals.”
Keenum said the other thing he needs to do is somehow break the Broncos’ habit of slow starts.
They’ve only scored six first-quarter points in their last five games and have started with a three-and-out four times.
“We need to make sure we get things going early, whether it’s with Phillip (Lindsay), Royce (Freeman), whether it’s throwing the ball down the field,” Keenum said. “A lot of different things. We need to get first downs. We need to score early and take some pressure off our defense and get other teams out of their game plans.
“So, there’s a lot of things that we can fix.”
ROBOT BARTENDER : The Broncos have unveiled the “Bud Light Bot ” that will be in use Saturday on the club level at Mile High stadium. Manufactured by Universal Robots and programmed by MSI TEC, the robot serves beer from a bottoms-up machine that uses a special cup and magnet to pour the beer.
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