Denver’s stout defense feeling frustrated
Fuming after once again winning its battle against the opposing team’s offense, but in another loss, Denver’s defense nevertheless wasn’t pointing fingers Sunday after a bitter 16-3 loss to New England.
Denver’s defense was fired up to get the better of Tom Brady once again. It did, for the most part. And yet the Broncos (8-6) lost for the third time in four games and saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.
It took Brady 16 minutes to get his first completion; he had an 0-for-6 start. The Broncos held Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to 31 yards on 17 carries.
Denver’s defense played well, as it’s done most of the season, but had little help from the team’s other two units. A fumbled punt and an interception led to New England’s first 10 points.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” safety T.J. Ward said. “When you kill yourselves with two early turnovers and you’re not putting points up, it’s hard to win games point-blank period. That’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks, and as you can see we have two L’s on that side of the
It’s been the same story for much of the Broncos’ season — a championship-caliber defense, but an offense worthy of a top-five pick in the next draft.
The Broncos held Brady to season lows in completion percentage (.500) and yards passing (188). It was the first time Brady was held under 200 yards passing in Denver in 10 career starts. And it was the first time Brady had fewer than 222 yards passing this season.
“That’s the best we ever played against him,” said Denver cornerback Chris Harris. “There’s a ton of frustration, but we can’t let that get to us.”
Denver defensive players said containing their frustration will be difficult. It felt too familiar when punt returner Jordan Norwood’s muffed opportunity led to a Patriots field goal and Trevor Siemian’s interception led to a huge momentum swing.
Denver cornerback Aqib Talib said he would have thought somebody was lying if they had told him the Broncos would hold Brady and the Patriots to 16 points and lose.
Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall agreed.
“That’s what makes me sick, when we come out and play stout like we did,” Harris said. “We just kill ourselves with penalties. Get in third-and-long situations and we can’t get out of them, so we have to figure out how to stop having negative plays that kill those drives.”
Its run defense has kept Denver from being as good as it was last season, when it rode its defense all the way to a Super Bowl title. But the Broncos still have one of the NFL’s better defenses.
The Broncos searched for splash plays Sunday to turn the tide but Brady played it smart with a lead, not taking chances, and New England (12-2) controlled the flow after going up 10-3.
Coming into Week 15, Denver ranked in the top six in the NFL in average yards allowed per game (310.7), points allowed per game (18.6), passing yards allowed per game (183.5), sacks (38) and third-down percentage defense (.367).
Sunday, the Broncos held New England to 313 total yards and 29 percent on third-down conversions while also notching two sacks.
“We take pride in everything we do defensively,” Ward said. “We lost. It’s rough. But if we’re successful, we take pride in it. If not, then what are you playing game for? You play to win, but if you don’t win you’ve got to play good yourself. And if you don’t play good yourself, then you just had a bad day.”
Now the leaders on the Denver defense — Ward, Harris, Talib, Marshall and outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller — will have to shift into being peacekeepers.
“There’s not going to be any friction. I’m the partition here,” Miller said. “It’s just a tough loss. You’ve got grown men in here. We’ve got two big games left, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be ready to go.”