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Broncos’ Von Miller sounds urgency alarm heading into divisional opener against Raiders: “We have to win this game”

Broncos’ Von Miller sounds urgency alarm heading into
divisional opener against Raiders: “We have to win this
game” 1

The fork in the road of the Broncos’ season arrives Sunday, and Von Miller knows it.

In the outside linebacker’s mind, Denver must right the ship in its divisional opener against the rival Raiders after consecutive losses to the Ravens and Steelers squandered the margin for error created by a 3-0 start.

“Maybe labeling the Ravens game a playoff game was too early for our team,” Miller said. “Maybe some of the things I said about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the type of game we needed to play, maybe it was too early. But it’s definitely not too early for the Raiders. We’ve got to go out there and play well from start to finish — this is a huge game for us.

“We have to win this game.”

Miller added the Broncos “need to dust ourselves off from losing two straight” as they take on Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon at Empower Field. The Raiders (3-2) are also looking to turn a corner, after a tumultuous week that included a decisive loss to the Bears followed by head coach Jon Gruden’s resignation because of past insensitive emails.

Miller said the Broncos know the Raiders didn’t play their best against Chicago, and he isn’t underestimating quarterback Derek Carr’s ability to rally his team in the wake of the Gruden controversy, which began late last week.

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“(Against Chicago) they were probably dealing with some of the distractions around (the Gruden situation),” Miller said. “If I were them, I would be looking forward to this game to get back on track, and we need this game as well to get back on track. It’s got all the makings of a really good game.”

With a Thursday Night Football showdown looming at Cleveland next week — and the season ending with four games against the Chargers/Chiefs over the last seven weeks — a loss Sunday would make an already challenging path to the playoffs even more difficult for the Broncos.

Miller said the key to keeping Carr and the Raiders in check starts in the run game — a facet the Broncos were unable to control last week. Pittsburgh ran for 147 yards, a season-high allowed by Denver, and that opened up the Steelers’ passing game. On the Raiders’ end, Josh Jacobs has yet to run for 100 yards in a game this season, but went off for 201 yards and four TDs across both of Las Vegas’ wins over Denver last season.

Despite the letdown of the past couple of weeks, Miller said the Broncos’ overall confidence remains high. Even though last week’s game at Heinz Field ended in a 27-19 loss, Denver worked its way back from a 24-6 deficit and was a score away from sending the game to overtime.

“These losses are not like the losses that we’ve had in the past, when it’s like you get on the bus and you’re looking around like, ‘What just happened? How do we even have a chance to play against these guys?’” Miller said. “These losses (in 2021), they’re not like that.”

Miller has been doing his part to help get the Broncos back in contention following five straight seasons out of the playoffs.

The Broncos picked up the 32-year-old’s contract option in the offseason following a lost 2020 due to ankle surgery, and he’s responded with 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles in five games. Miller was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September and has played 80% of Denver’s defensive snaps so far.

That’s put the league on notice that the veteran still has plenty left in the tank as he eyes his first double-digit sack year since 2018. Miller is the NFL’s active sack leader at 110.5, and ranks 23rd on the all-time list.

“I’m really happy for him (winning player of the month) after having the tough injury last year,” Fangio said Sept. 30. “I think the guy has a lot of years left, not just this year.”

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