Broncos play down offensive vs. defensive rift
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos downplayed any disharmony in their locker room that erupted following their 16-3 loss to New England that left them precariously close to missing the playoffs a year after winning it all.
Cornerback Aqib Talib objected when left tackle Russell Okung rose to speak after coach Gary Kubiak asked if anyone wanted to address the team in the locker room after the loss.
That started a shouting match between defensive players who had held Tom Brady in check and the O-linemen, who have taken the brunt of the blame for Denver’s dive.
“Well, it was just an instance where you have two guys that are very emotional and very competitive who really want what’s best for this team and it’s nothing, it’s not a big issue,” Okung said Monday. “I think at the end of the day we all want the same thing, we want to win games.”
The defensive backs didn’t come through the locker room during the media’s 45-minute access Monday.
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Talib’s comments to reporters after the game belied any brewing conflict.
“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. We’re going to go play Christmas night.”
The Broncos (8-6) need to beat the Chiefs (10-4) and the Raiders (11-3) to have any chance of defending their title. Even that might not get them into the playoffs.
Denver’s defense has carried the team for two years now, and the frustration boiled over after they held Brady to a season-low 188 yards and no touchdowns on 16-of-32 passing. For a Patriots offense missing Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, that should have been sufficient to beat Brady for a seventh time in 10 tries.
Kubiak said he didn’t have a problem with Talib’s reaction Sunday after the game, but insisted it wasn’t a big issue that could fracture his team.
“It’s OK to be upset,” Kubiak said. “There’s pain in what we do and you put a lot into it. There’s no division. That’s battling and that’s part of football. Defensively, we should feel really good in how we played yesterday. Offensively, we should look at it and say, ‘Damn, we did some good things, we should have scored some points.’”
Kubiak said he would “never let something be divisive,” and wasn’t bothered by the friction.
“There’s nobody feeling good today,” Kubiak said. “Did some people play better than others? Yeah, but that’s the case every week in football.
“But we regroup and we’ve got to get better, got to go on the road and play in a tough game. So, there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself. But there’s always time to be honest with yourself.”
Okung said he and Talib cleared the air Monday, saying, “we definitely made amends.” Yet, Kubiak wondered if that was even necessary, suggesting the hubbub “was not a big deal.”
“I mean, I’ve been in NFL locker rooms 400-plus times. Let me tell you something: that was nothing, OK? That was frustration. We’d just lost a game. It was nothing,” Kubiak said.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who’s also voiced his frustration with Denver’s sputtering offense this season, said he sensed no chasm between offense and defense.
“The one thing Gary Kubiak always says is make sure that we’re holding each other accountable,” Sanders said.
“That’s what it is. We understand that the defense is playing extremely well. Offensively, we’re not playing as good as we’re supposed to be,” Sanders said. “We’re the ones that are holding us back and we’re just trying to get it together and the defense is just holding us accountable.”
Notes: Kubiak said DE Derek Wolfe (neck) was day to day, but that TEs Virgil Green and A.J. Derby were both in concussion protocol. … Kubiak said RG Billy Turner earned more snaps after playing 14 snaps in his Denver debut. … Kubiak again defended PR/WR Jordan Norwood, who fumbled his fourth punt and also fumbled away his only catch after Kubiak activated him over rookie Kalif Raymond on Sunday. He did say, however, that he’s considering using Sanders to return punts, something Sanders said he’d welcome.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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