Of­fense vs. de­fense rift down­played

The Times-Tribune - - National Football League - BY ARNIE STAPLETON

EN­GLE­WOOD, Colo. — The Den­ver Broncos down­played any dishar­mony in their locker room that erupted fol­low­ing their 16-3 loss to New Eng­land that left them pre­car­i­ously close to miss­ing the play­offs a year af­ter win­ning it all.

Cor­ner­back Aqib Talib ob­jected when left tackle Rus­sell Okung rose to speak af­ter coach Gary Ku­biak asked if any­one wanted to ad­dress the team in the locker room af­ter the loss.

That started a shout­ing match be­tween de­fen­sive play­ers who had held Tom Brady in check and the O-line­men, who have taken the brunt of the blame for Den­ver’s dive.

“Well, it was just an in­stance where you have two guys that are very emo­tional and very com­pet­i­tive who re­ally want what’s best for this team and it’s noth­ing, it’s not a big is­sue,” Okung said Mon­day. “I think at the end of the day we all want the same thing, we want to win games.”

The de­fen­sive backs didn’t come through the locker room dur­ing the me­dia’s 45-minute ac­cess Mon­day.

Talib’s com­ments to re­porters af­ter the game be­lied any brew­ing con­flict.

“That’s not go­ing to take us nowhere, be­ing frus­trated and beef­ing with the of­fense,” Talib said. “That’s go­ing to get us nowhere. We’re go­ing to ride and stick to­gether. We’re go­ing to go play Christ­mas night.”

The Broncos (8-6) need to beat the Chiefs (10-4) and the Raiders (11-3) to have any chance of de­fend­ing their ti­tle. Even that might not get them into the play­offs.

Den­ver’s de­fense has car­ried the team for two years now, and the frus­tra­tion boiled over af­ter they held Brady to a sea­son-low 188 yards and no touch­downs on 16-of-32 pass­ing. For a Pa­tri­ots of­fense miss­ing Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amen­dola, that should have been suf­fi­cient to beat Brady for a sev­enth time in 10 tries.

Ku­biak said he didn’t have a prob­lem with Talib’s re­ac­tion Sun­day af­ter the game, but in­sisted it wasn’t a big is­sue that could frac­ture his team.

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