The Times-Tribune

Offense vs. defense rift downplayed

- 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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