They say losing teaches a lot more than winning – and they are right - but only if you take heed of the lessons.
Unfortunately only one group on this Broncos squad appears to be taking heed.
And it’s the wrong group. Or at least not the most right one.
Three weeks ago, the Broncos defense blamed itself for the loss to the Chiefs when the offense put up 27 points, and the defense couldn’t hold off KC in its final drive that included a touchdown on fourth down and a two-point conversion to tie with seconds remaining. Nor could it prevent the Chiefs from getting a field goal to win in their second drive of overtime just before time would have run out.
Chris Harris Jr. and the rest of the defense took all the blame.
"That was on us, on the defense. We’ve got to be able to finish that game," Harris Jr. said. "That’s what they pay us to do. They pay us to finish those games and close it out. We didn’t do it today."
And then the defense went out and made sure it wasn’t the reason the team lost and did its best to help the team win – holding some pretty good offenses with some very good quarterbacks to 10, 13 and 16 points respectively. The run defense has remained a weak spot, but it has gotten better while the Orange Rush and No Fly Zone have hung in drive after drive, stopping touchdowns and preventing opponents from running away with the game.
The same cannot be said of the offense.
Week after week there is plenty of accountability about mistakes – like from Trevor Siemian after yesterday’s loss to the Patriots:
"Frustrating no doubt. Especially earlier on when we were moving the ball really well and have no points to show for it. A lot of that’s on me," said Siemian. "Missed a couple opportunities to get us points early on, and that comes back to haunt you for sure."
Or from Demaryius Thomas:
"I could have made that play on the deep-ball on the left side, then it would have totally been a different game," the wide receiver said. "We would have been in scoring range. That’s one play you could say would have changed the whole game. There were other plays out there that we’ve got to do better at as a whole group."
There are some thoughts from the coach on what didn’t happen that should have:
"We moved the ball extremely well in the first half, and if we catch a ball in the second half, I think we move the ball some more," Gary Kubiak said after the game. "We had about four or five balls that we need to make plays on. The first third down of the second half, we’re fixing to be at the 40-yard line. We had some big drops in the game that could have been the difference in us continuing to move the ball late in the second quarter and the third quarter. We didn’t make them."
And there’s always a lot of talk about good players "just needing to execute better" to get it done:
"Executing on all of those situations – like on third down, in the red zone and being able to finish drives – those things we have to be able to do better in order to win games," said new running back Justin Forsett. "But the talent is there, and the receivers are there. We have a great quarterback. The running game is coming along. I’ve been with a lot worse in this league, and this is a great team."
Siemian, Thomas, Kubiak and Forsett are right, and they all said the right things.
Well, almost right.
Because the one thing they didn’t say is the exact thing they need to say – "we will do it better."
Not, "we need to execute better."
Not, "we need to keep battling."
Not, "we’re looking forward to next week."
But, "we will do better" - we will study film and figure out the best mismatches for our opponent; we will design plays to help our quarterback; we will learn our blocking assignments; we will be disciplined and not negate plays with holding calls; we will get rid of the ball sooner; we will catch the ball.
Kubiak, on the offense: "There's no excuses. I've got to do a better job with them."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 19, 2016
Yet ironically, it was still players on defense yesterday shouldering blame and promising more.
Von Miller called it "a tough loss" and all he could think and talk about was what more he could have done.
"There’s a lot that I could’ve done better to help my team win. I’ve done it before. I just wasn’t able to get it done tonight, and it’s just a tough one; a tough loss," Miller said.
The MVP edge rusher – who didn’t get any sacks but was pressuring Tom Brady all game long, contributing to the fact that No. 12 had no completions in the first quarter and only 8 of 16 in the first half – still put the onus on his defense.
"I’m not looking at the three. I’m looking at the 16. The 16 is more than three, so we lost. It’s a team effort, no matter how you slice it. It’s not the play calls. It’s not the coaches. It’s not the front office. It’s us. We’re the ones on the football field. We’ve got to make it happen. We’ve just got to do it."
It’s no wonder some defensive players were frustrated enough that a locker room shouting match broke out. The defense wants to see the same actual effort week in and week out from the offensive side of the ball.
Kubiak is right when he says the flaring tempers in the locker room are "just football," and frankly, I like seeing that kind of fire among players holding each other accountable.
But the very fact that this defense has a right to be mad is frustrating. They haven’t been perfect, but they’ve made promises to do better – and then they have done it.
The offense states the obvious - then falters again - then states the obvious once more.
Whether it’s poor coaching, bad execution, just not enough talent or most likely, the sum of all parts, there’s no question that if the Broncos want any shot whatsoever at the playoffs, the offense has to step up.
Like, actually step up.
"We sit back and we say ‘what is the reason why?’ And you have to execute," said Emmanuel Sanders Monday. "You have to be able to make the plays. If we’re going to make the playoffs, and if we’re going to win these next two games, then players have to step up and make those plays."
So put your money where your mouth is, offense. CHJ said after KC that the defense gets paid to make the plays to win. Well, so do you.
If it's "just executing better," then do it.
You have two more games to show you can learn from the losses and decide you will do better.
Or learn from Yoda's teachings - "Do or do not. There is no try."