Two interceptions. Two passes batted down. A forced fumble. A tackle for a loss. Five total tackles. And a major contributor on a defense that held its opponent to just 10 points.
That kind of game could earn Justin Simmons Defensive Player of the Week.
And it’s the kind of game that usually translates into a huge advantage for the team dominating the turnover battle.
But that assumes the team’s offense can score more than 10 points - and these days that’s asking too much of the Broncos.
And for Simmons, losing the game on the closing drive in the final two minutes doesn’t feel like something to celebrate.
“They definitely all hurt,” Simmons said about the loss. “I think this one stings, because, obviously it’s frustrating that you play so well for most of the game [and] give yourself a chance to win at the end of the game. But defensively, I’m going to keep harping on you can’t play three-and-a-half quarters of really good football and then give it up at the end.”
Of course, the defense didn’t “really give it up,” Simmons added, giving credit to the Ravens offense.
“There are definitely some self-inflicting things that we did that didn’t help that situation,” Simmons said. “We’ve just got to find ways to be better, and we can’t accept, obviously, the outcome there for us.”
It was all going so well
The fourth quarter began with the Broncos up 9-3 and the Ravens driving. Until Simmons put an end to that with an endzone interception.
Unfortunately, the Broncos offense still couldn’t capitalize as they gained a total of 11 yards on the drive, ending with a sack and a punt.
The defense came back and forced a three-and-out, giving the offense yet another chance to put the game away. A 30-yard pass to Greg Dulcich showed promise but then a pass to Montrell Washington for a one-yard loss followed by two incompletes sealed the offense’s fate once again.
Corliss Waitman pinned the Ravens back at their 9-yard line with 5:02 to go.
Thanks to a 4th-and-1 conversion at the beginning of the drive, a 4th-and-2 at the end and a couple of highly unfortunate penalties for the Broncos’ D in the middle, the Ravens took up 4:32 minutes for 16 plays and 91 yards to get the go-ahead, and ultimately the game-winning, touchdown.
“It just stinks there at the end; guys are in tight coverage, and your muscle memory all week and what you work on at practice … On the back end, plaster, plaster, plaster,” Simmons noted. “We have a body on a body, and they’re able to find a space and it gets tough. Coverage works best when we’re together, and we just weren’t able to make that happen there.”
D-O-DOUBLE G❗️— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 4, 2022
Tune in on cbs! pic.twitter.com/x2x4mEYALs
After an entire game of keeping the Ravens offense at bay - albeit with a backup QB - the defense got worn down.
With about a half-minute to go, the Broncos offense that had done very little all day, still could not rise to the occasion and bail out a defense that had been saving its ass all game.
But...win as a team, lose as a team.
And Simmons understands that better than anybody. As one of the oldest veterans on the team, the safety has never experienced a winning season despite playing on a championship-level defense every year.
“You know, it sucks. I think being honest and raw, you just want to let out your emotions and speak from the heart but that’s not going to do much. That fact of the matter is this one sucks,” Simmons said. “It gave us a chance to win and defensively, we didn’t close out. We can’t play three-and a-half good quarters of football and then give up the two-minute drive there at the end and be satisfied with that.”
Simmons added that it’s even more frustrating knowing that it’s not a lack of effort, but the 24-hour rule is in effect and then it’s back to believing they can make the adjustments to beat the Chiefs next week at home.
“You can’t let this roll over into next week,” he said. “Obviously, we know we’re going up against a very good offense in the Chiefs and so for us defensively, it’s generating – once again – takeaways and creating a short field for our offense. Give them opportunities to score the football.”
Not that the Broncos offense would be able to do anything with it, but for Simmons the goal does not change.
For the free safety who will endure his seventh losing season with the Broncos, it comes down to one thing - the defense has to be able to stop the two-minute offense.
“If you want to be elite and you want to call yourself the best, you’ve got to be able to execute in those moments,” he said, “and I’m obviously frustrated there.”
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