The mood in Dove Valley is clearly one of disappointment outside of two young quarterbacks eager to keep playing or to steal away a few drives of extra experience before the season is over.
The Denver Broncos didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. And it’s something most players on this roster simply are not used to. Aqib Talib voiced the sentiment well on Wednesday.
"Yes, it’s different," Talib said of the locker room this week. "You have to force yourself to prepare, but you’re playing for pride. This is our job. This is what we get paid to do."
One shining spot on this team was its vaunted No Fly Zone who, even after last week’s disastrous performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, are still 20 yards per game better against the pass than the next closest defense and a full .8 yards per attempt better than the next closest defense.
"It’s a goal achieved," Talib said of finishing as the top ranked pass defense. "It’s not the one that we want to achieve, but it is a goal that we set out at the beginning of the year. It will be one that we get a chance to achieve."
However, that is giving guys like Chris Harris Jr. a little extra motivation to close out the 2016 season strongly.
"To play for each other [and] continue to play for the name in the back of your jersey [and] have some pride," Harris said of what his coaches are saying this week. "Especially as a secondary, we want to finish this season number one in pass defense. We want to definitely finish strong and keep that as one of our goals to be able to do that."
That number one pass defense is a matter of pride for the secondary. Shutting down the Oakland Raiders inexperienced Matt McGloin would at least give the Broncos a little boost heading into the offseason.
"It will show a lot of character on this team," said Harris, "to say that even though we were down and out with no chance to make the playoffs, everybody still fought and everybody still had pride in them. I think that’s something that we need going into the offseason."
It’s not just a bad taste for the offense, but the defense too. They are coming off their worst game since Super Bowl 48. Beating the Raiders isn’t going to provide all that much for this defense that prides itself in being able to take over games and win them outright.
"The bad taste is going to be in my mouth, personally, until next year," Talib elaborated. "Personally, I’m trying to prepare to finish what I started. It’s what my parents, my coaches and people that I’ve always looked up to taught me to do. Finish what you start, so that’s what we’re going to do."
Finishing the disappointing and frustrating 2016 season.
From there, it’s all about that offseason work. There is plenty to fix, mostly on the offensive side of the ball, but also a few issues on the defensive side of things.
"It’s hard to elaborate on it, but you can see in the numbers," Harris said of what needs to improve on this team in the offseason. "If you look at the stats, this is probably the lowest that we’ve been since I’ve been here in the run defense. We’re still a top-five defense overall, but that’s not we want. We want to be number one and that’s something that I can see next year that we have to improve on."
Collectively, we’re all disappointed right now, but in a few months time Broncos Country will awaken with a new sense of hope and excitement for what will be coming for this franchise in 2017.
With guys like Harris and Talib back there, I predict good things will be coming our way next Fall.
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