After another dominant performance from the Denver defence was wasted by the team’s sputtering offence, members of the Broncos’ defensive unit reportedly got into a shouting match with members of the offence line in the locker room on Sunday following the team’s 16-3 loss at home against the New England Patriots.
The game was a perfect microcosm of the Broncos’ season: the Denver defence held Tom Brady to a season-low in completion percentage and passing yards, while the offence managed only one field goal and, to start the second half, managed zero first downs on five consecutive drives that resulted in a total of nine yards.
This is becoming a trend for the reigning Super Bowl champs, who at 8-6 will need a small miracle to make the playoffs. The week prior, the Denver D held the Titans to 13 points and lost, 13-10. As Deadspin noted, the offence has scored one touchdown in its last 10 quarters.
Unsurprisingly, the defence is growing frustrated. Here’s the scene from the locker room after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots (according to NFL.com):
“When the beaten Broncos spilled into the locker room, before the door was opened to reporters and other outsiders, coach Gary Kubiak gathered his players and asked if anyone wanted to address the team. Veteran left tackle Russell Okung, who signed with the Broncos last March, stepped forward to speak, and cornerback Aqib Talib strongly objected. According to several witnesses, that set off a spirited shouting match between the team’s defensive backs and offensive linemen — one which Kubiak had to diffuse before it turned ugly.
“Pretty much your classic offence vs. defence divide,” as one Denver player described it.”
This isn’t the first time tensions have boiled over into the locker room. As ESPN reported, the offensive line and defence have gotten into shouting matches on at least one other occasion this season, only now, after the loss to New England, are the players starting to speak openly about their frustrations.
“Everybody’s frustrated,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “We feel like we played almost good enough defence to win that game, I don’t know if [we] ever kept Brady under 16 points and we did that today. That’s what makes you sick, when we come out and play stout like we did today, we could play a little bit better and get some turnovers. … But they didn’t really have to take many chances, they didn’t really have to throw the ball down the field too much.”
“We played great,” said safety T.J. Ward. “I looked up in the first [quarter] and [Patriots quarterback Tom Brady] had like zero passing yards. I had never seen that before. I couldn’t believe it, honestly.”
He added: “It’s definitely frustrating. When you kill yourselves with two early turnovers and you’re not putting points up, it’s hard to win games point-blank period. That’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks and as you can see we have two Ls on that side of the column.”
The Broncos offence is frustrated with themselves, too.
“Early in the season, my frustrations were with my offensive guys, because we weren’t putting up points,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “And every time someone mentioned the Broncos, it was, ‘They have got a great defence, but the offence isn’t pulling its weight.’ That gets old. I’m sick of hearing that. I’m still hearing that. We need to find a way to do better.”
With two games left, the Broncos have quite the battle to make the playoffs. They will have to win out, against the Chiefs (10-4) in Kansas City and the Raiders (11-3) in Denver. (They will also likely need some help.)
It’s a long-shot, to be sure, and the defence can only do so much.
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