The frustration is obvious.
The despair is glaring.
The losing is annoying.
But players insist they just need “to keep fighting.”
Their body language and tone during pressers, however, make the words somewhat hollow - certainly not in players’ desire to keep fighting but rather in the reality of whether they can.
“Frustration. I think that’s the perfect word,” said second-year safety Justin Simmons after a game in which a late comeback by the Broncos’ offense fell perhaps one drive short of getting a chance to change the season’s losing momentum after the defense couldn’t capitalize to get the ball back one more time. “Overall, we did a decent job; I don’t even know what the numbers were. But we let up one too many plays. And even so, we had a chance to win at the end of the game. ...We just couldn’t get the stop.”
That coveted “stop” was the perfect metaphor for the Broncos’ defense during the game, likely even the season - grind for two downs and then give up one big play to keep the opponent’s offense on the field and with momentum.
With a cover-zero play call, the Broncos brought the house to make the stop on 3rd-and-8 but were outsmarted by Derek Carr who found a wide open Cordarrelle Patterson. The wide receiver turned the catch into a 54-yard play and a TKO for the Broncos offense that would never see the field for one last try to improve the 21-14 score.
“Obviously we had them backed up, no timeouts, like two minutes left on the clock, something like that,” Simmons recalled. “As far as that goes, that falls on us to be able to get our offense one more go to tie it up or even go for two points and win the game.”
But no such fairytale comeback would be permitted.
It was a game of missed opportunities from the get-go. After the rival AFC West teams traded punting drives throughout the first quarter - and kicked out a couple of their best players for fighting - it proved to be the Broncos who got the worse end of that deal as the replacements for Aqib Talib could not stop Raiders receivers much of the day.
Still, the defense was holding its own, looking to give the offense a huge spark when Shaquil Barrett got a strip sack at the end of the first quarter to give Paxton Lynch a chance inside the red zone.
What looked like a touchdown pass to Devontae Booker on third down was called dead at the one-yard line, and then the Broncos’ bad karma on the goal line would rear its ugly head once more.
If Patterson’s 54-yard play at the end of the game was a metaphor for the defense, the 2nd-and-goal play that turned into a fluke interception off Virgil Green’s hands and into the opportunistic hands of NaVorro Bowman was certainly one for the offense.
"That's the frustrating part - me being in my prime and on top of my game like never before and not being able to put it out there for everyone to see. Wasting a prime year on whatever we got - yeah that's the frustration." - @VonMiller— Non-local blogger LLV (@docllv) November 27, 2017
For us too, Von. pic.twitter.com/0QPVJvz7KH
It all adds up to one big frustration.
“Yeah it was a bummer, but it wasn’t the only play,” Von Miller said of the final throw to Patterson. “We had more chances to get off the field and change the game. If you look at the first touchdown the Raiders had, fresh off our offensive turnover, if we could just hold them to the point right there, it’s a different game. ...It’s just been that all season long, every week and every game. It’s just a tough deal that we have right now.”
Defensive end Shelby Harris noted the need more than ever for the team to stick together as it faces the first seven-game losing streak since 1967.
“Yeah, man. That is a theme this season. You know we always talk about cutting down on big plays, and it just happens,” Harris said. “Go back to work on Monday and just keep grinding. Try to figure out, but the big thing is to stick together as a team. Shout out to my dogs, Adam [Gotsis] and Zach Kerr. We were in there in the second half with three D-linemen. Don’t ever question our heart. We out there grinding 100 percent.”
Unfortunately for the Broncos, games aren’t won or lost on heart - and staying “together” over a bad stretch will test even the best of locker rooms.
Chris Harris Jr. admits this one is being tested.
“It’s definitely a challenge. Something that we have to do is keep everybody tight knit,” he said. But that is helped by winning, and it’s been a long time since that’s happened for this team. “We just gotta figure out something.”
Demaryius Thomas, who had just five catches for 18 yards, also noted the blow to team morale with the losing streak.
“You know we have lost seven in a row. You can’t get no more frustration than that,” he said, adding the familiar “we’ve just got to keep fighting” mantra. “We’ve got five more. Hopefully, we go out and do some of the stuff we did today. We scored two quick touchdowns. You know give yourself hope. Make it a closer game than what it was.”
But Thomas didn’t seem to convince himself this was enough to turn the team around.
“Man, I don’t know. I don’t know,” he added. “They still tough man. Like I said, we have lost seven in a row, seven.”
Shane Ray, who only got one solo tackle, called the climate “tough.”
“I am just irritated man. I don’t like losing. My teammates don’t like losing. We come out every day in practice working as hard as we can every day to try to be the best that we can be. I am out there playing with one arm, one hand. I am out there playing with a sprained knee,” he said. “You see the work of guys of what they are trying to do. It’s just tough man. You know it’s just tough.”
Harris just goes back to the fact that players really only have one option - to keep going at it.
“There is really not much else to say, but keep fighting. It’s not really much else to say. Just got to keep fighting,” the defensive end repeated. “I feel like I keep saying the same stuff every week. Just got to keep fighting and keep grinding.”
Safety Darian Stewart agreed, adding that it’s up to the veterans to show the young guys how to stay in it.
“I mean we’re going to stick together regardless. It’s rough man, I haven’t been down this stretch man,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep these young boys’ heads right and just keep working. Because it’s going to come. When, I don’t know. But we are going to keep working.”
Trevor Siemian, who came in for the injured Lynch and engineered the two fourth-quarter scoring drives to move his starting quarterback stock way up, pointed out that’s why players are so frustrated - they’re not used to putting in hard work and having it come up short.
“I think it’s just tough for all of us. We’re losing a bunch of games in a row and it’s frustrating, especially as long as I’ve been here,” he said. “You look inward first, you look at yourself and you say what can I do to get it right? And I think that’s the thing about us, is, it’s frustrating because everybody is pouring everything in each week, and then to not get the result at the end of the week stinks, so we’ve got to figure it out.”
Cody Latimer might have been the only player to truly sound optimistic after a game that was one of the best of his career - three catches for 48 yards including a 25-yard touchdown.
“We is fighters. We are going to grind into the end. Everybody is stepping in and making plays to the very end until there is no hope left,” he said.
The question is, have the Broncos already gotten to that point?
There are ‘signs’ of fight left in this team - will it be enough?
This poll is closed
Of course - no way this team just shuts down.
Nope. They’ve lost the will to win.
I don’t know about the team, but I don’t have any more.