A report from Mike Silver of NFL Network painted a picture of open hostility in the Denver Broncos post-game locker room between offensive and defensive players in the locker room. This report is both understandable and indicative of a team on the brink of having their season ended.
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.
Sounds like the players on defense, who just beat down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, are sick of hearing players on the offense talk about what they need to do next.
Can you blame them?
"I definitely understand their frustration," Russell 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. When our defense is out there, they're an emotional group, and they hold themselves to a high standard. As an offense, we need to do the same. So, I think (their frustration) is warranted. We've got to be better.”
The frustration is coming from the offense putting up better statistical numbers and fewer turnovers in 2016, but cannot seem to score. The lack of points production is a serious problem and clearly it is pushing the team to a breaking point.
"We are an emotional group," T.J. Ward told Michael Silver after he shared details of his conversation with Okung. 'That's why we play as well as we do. What happened wasn't even anything major -- just a little frustration. We're all trying to win."
Ward elaborated even more when he talked about how hard it is to watch your best efforts being good enough to win a game, but you lose anyway.
"We did dominate them," Ward said of the Patriots, "but when they don't have to pass, No Fly kinda gets eradicated, so we've got to try to make plays in other areas ... strip the ball, whatever. But it's tough when they don't have to pass the ball. You've got to be in a position to make plays, but teams don't even have to throw the ball on us. If they're not in a position to throw, it's hard to get an interception. And even when they run, their running backs have two hands on the ball, so it's hard to make plays (against) the run."
Chris Harris Jr. echoed his teammates sentiments, saying, “Any time we hold Brady to 16 points, we expect to win. Even last year, we never held him to 16. And he didn't complete any passes in the first quarter. We have to do better.”
Oddly enough, it was Aqib Talib who sent a message of unity. He may have helped diffuse the situation through a team-first mentality.
“That’s not really going to take us anywhere though,” Talib said of frustration mounting. “Just being frustrated and beefing with the offense. That’s not going to get us anywhere. We’re going to ride. We’re going to stick together and we’re going to go play Christmas night.”
All said, reading through Silver’s story shows a defense that is tired of needing to drag an ineffective offense to victory. It’s all starting to catch up to them now and some of that frustration boiled over immediately after the game.
At 8-6, the Broncos must now take a game on Christmas Day in Arrowhead against the Kansas City Chiefs and then take down the red hot Oakland Raiders to have a shot to make it into the playoffs. If they do that, they’ll still need a little help along the way.