Let's face it, yesterday's loss was painful. For me, it conjured up thoughts of a favorite movie quote(s) of mine, from The Princess Bride -
Prince Humperdinck: First things first, to the death.Westley: No. To the pain.Prince Humperdinck: I don't think I'm quite familiar with that phrase.Westley: I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.Westley: It won't be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don't mean to duplicate tonight.Westley: I wasn't finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let's get on with it.Westley: WRONG. Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.Prince Humperdinck: I think you're bluffing.Westley: It's possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again... perhaps I have the strength after all.[slowly rises and points sword directly at the prince]Westley: DROP... YOUR... SWORD!Prince Humperdinck: [Humperdinck's mouth hangs open, drops sword to floor]
That pretty much summed it up for me. I have always been about solutions, however, never taking long to sulk in my own pity. The Broncos are in a very precarious position with two games to go, one that they have brought upon themselves. Again. As I drove to work this morning several thoughts were swirling in my head, similar to the Sugar Plums we all will see a few nights from now.
We live in a culture that loves to blame. Anytime there is failure, we must find out whose fault it is and seek their remorse lest we drag them over the coals. The situation the Broncos find themselves in is no different. And there is plenty of blame to go around, for sure.
Josh McDaniels will get his share. Rightfully so, since he is the Head Coach, the leader of the team and the buck obviously stops with him. Whether it be play-calling, personnel decisions (Peyton Hillis-backers, that's for you), or game management, people have taken McDaniels to task for all of it. That's how it goes in the NFL - win and you are a genius; lose and, well, people call you something much less affectionate.
Me? I choose the harder route. The 53 men in that locker room need to take a look in the mirror. Actually, I'll get a bit more specific. Football is about players, not coaches - we all know that. Players either execute or they don't, make plays or they don't. We sit here in late December, with a nagging Deja-Vu feeling, not because of our coach, but because of the players - specifically the same players that have gone through this before.
The Broncos sit on the cusp of another December breakdown and the only ones that can stop it are the men in the locker room.
It is time for D.J. Williams and Champ Bailey, the mainstays of the Broncos defense the past four years to stand up and say, "NOT AGAIN". Yeah, I know D.J. and Champ are beloved, but they have also been part of the problem the past four years. They now need to be part of the solution.
I'm also talking to you - Kenny Peterson, Marcus Thomas, Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil - and every other player that was part of the defense in 2008, that was part of the collapse, it is time for you to stand up and say, "NOT THIS TIME".
I'm not going to forgive the offense, either. Someone needs to make a play - Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, Daniel Graham, Tony Scheffler - someone needs to step up these next two weeks and say, "NOT THIS YEAR". Yes, Marshall has been huge and Stokley seemingly makes every big play he is given the opportunity to make, but all that matters now is the next two weeks - and seemingly the two wins that would assure the Broncos a post-season berth.
Coaches coach, players play. It is easy to blame the coaches because it isn't their name on the back of the jerseys we buy, not their numbers we memorize. It is the players that get the credit, and it is the 53 men in that locker room, specifically the 23 players that were part of the Denver Broncos in 2008, that need to step up and decide the fate of the 2009 version.
Again, a movie quote, this time from Terminator 2 -
The Future Is Not Set, There Is No Fate But What We Make For Ourselves.
The past is just that, the past, and it holds no bearing on the future. The Broncos need to believe this.
The Broncos in the Playoffs - Do They Deserve It? - This has been a popular quote the past couple of days. It has sparked much debate in the community, though it shouldn't. Like everything, there are literal and figurative meanings. The Broncos' loss to the Raiders was inexcusable from a fan's perspective - I hate losing home games to any divisional opponent - and thus makes this team undeserving of post-season glory - figuratively.
Literally, the NFL playoffs are the toughest tournament to gain access to - in my opinion. Sure, baseball is pretty tough as well, but the financial system in baseball, along with the watering down of talent because of the number of teams, makes it much easier to simply buy your way in. Not that easy in the NFL.
It is a long season, and any team that EARNS its way into the post-season certainly deserves to be there, regardless of the number, or types of losses on its resume. We all know this, but fans are emotional and we let those emotions dictate our thoughts sometimes. No harm, no foul.
The Broncos did not deserve to beat the Raiders yesterday - that is true, but if they do what it takes and make the post-season in 2009 they wll have certainly earned that right and deserve to be there - just as they would earn the right to miss the post-season should they miss out...again.
Where Games are Won and Lost - I think we all know the answer to this old saying - in the trenches. Before the season we all knew the Broncos were thin on the offensive and defensive lines. Josh McDaniels knew it too - he drafted Seth Olsen and then, during Training Camp, traded for Russ Hochstein. The team also rebuilt the defensive backfield - an asset to any defensive line - and brought in Ronald Fields and Vonnie Holliday to help. Should we be so surprised that the Broncos are struggling on both lines, especially against physical opponents?
No, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch. Like it or not, the talent level on this team has been eroding for some time. I've been talking about it for a couple years now - the failures in the Draft in 2003, 2004, 2005, etc. have forced the team to start undrafted free agents and outcasts from around the League to make up for it. It is going to take time for that talent pool to be replaced. It has left the Broncos with little depth, and when injuries do occur - like the one to Ryan Harris, or age becomes a factor - Ben Hamilton - it leaves you with little direction to move.
We can blame Knowshon Moreno, or the lack of Peyton Hillis, for the Broncos' problems in short-yardage situations, but the truth is, 3rd- and 4th-and-short/goal is all about will, desire, and want. A little beef helps too, and right now the Broncos simply don't have enough beef to get it done - especially along the interior of the O-Line.
A Bit More On Knowshon - Knowshon Moreno has talent - no doubt about it. But right now, the kid is thinking way too much. We all know the Josh McDaniels playbook is large, and the running backs have a lot of responsibility in McDaniels' offensive scheme. Moreno looks like a player that is thinking instead of reacting, suicide in the fast-paced NFL.
That is the reason Moreno looks great in the 1st Quarter - 7 carries, 39 yards yesterday, then seems to fade. He gets the reps all week, has the game plan down pat, but when adjustments are made in-game, seems to struggle - he stops trusting his eyes, his blocks, his assignments, and starts to think. Great running backs react - right now, Knowshon is not reacting.
Moreno is a young guy, and you hope it comes with time, but right now Knowshon is suffering a bit from a lack of confidence. While he certainly isn't having a Clinton Portis-type rookie season, I still have high hopes.
All this Doom and Gloom, but... - The Broncos still control their own fate. Win in Philly and at home against Kansas City and the Broncos are in. I cautioned everyone a couple weeks ago and I will say it again - don't give any team wins this time of season. Don't look at the schedule and assume Baltimore, or Pittsburgh or anyone will win this game, or lose that game. The pressure is on right now and that affects teams and coaches differently. Play the games and see what happens. For the Broncos, that means win this week and next. You can't ask for more than what the Broncos have in front of them - to control their future - Read the quote above.