With the whole enchilada on the line, the Denver Broncos fold like a taco, losing to the New England Patriots 16-3.
Bronco’s chances for a wild card birth were a long shot for some time, but the final nail in the coffin came last Sunday in a game that highlighted the weaknesses of the team.
With the loss to the Patriots, the Broncos fell to 8-6 with two games remaining. Denver finds itself out of the playoff race in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans.
While the defense continued to play strong, limiting Brady and the Pat to 188 yards passing, no touchdown passes, and only 16 points, special teams and the offense played miserably.
The writing on the wall was evident from the first chance the Broncos had on offense. The Pats were held to three and out on their first possession, but on the ensuing punt Jordon Norwood muffed the punt and the Pats recovered.
After the game Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said “I can’t sit here and tell you what all the scenarios are, but if we don’t find a way to win 10 games, we’re not going to have an opportunity,”
The outcome of the game was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the defense. Emotions ran high in the locker room after the game. Kubiak asked players if they wanted to address the team after the loss. Broncos left tackle Russell Okung volunteered to speak up but cornerback Aqib Talib quickly objected, leading to shouting between the two groups of players.
“I definitely understand their frustration,” Okung told NFL.com. “They played well enough to win, and they held that team to 16 points, which a lot of teams don’t do. We’re an emotional team; that’s what makes us so good. To me, that’s part of who we are.”
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas then told NFL.com, “It’s tough to see your blood brothers, guys you go to work with every day, get frustrated and air it out like that. You wish it wasn’t that way.” “But being as great a defense as they are, I can see why they’re frustrated. As an offensive player, you’ve gotta be frustrated, too — but then, at a certain point, it’s hard to be frustrated. … You see the same thing for 14 weeks — we move the ball, move the ball, then get in the red area and we just fold. At some point, you just throw up your hands.”
The frustration in the locker room between the defense and the offense has been brewing over the last several games. Three weeks ago, Aqib Talib shoved Norwood after one of his muffs, prompting Kubiak to remind them they fight together, not each other.
“That’s not going to take us nowhere, being frustrated and beefing with the offense,” Talib said. “That’s going to get us nowhere. We’re going to ride and stick together.”
Still, there’s clearly budding friction, but Von Miller said he’ll be the peace-keeper if necessary. “There’s not going to be any friction,” Miller promised. “I’m the partition.”
Next week the team travels to Kansas City to play the Chiefs who lost a close game to the Titans last week. It may seem like a meaningless game to those outside the AFC West, but the Broncos are now playing for pride. There will be fireworks, and tempers are likely to flare up again.