The way the Denver Broncos play football — keeping their cards close to the vest — their margin for error is slim. They can ill-afford mental errors, coverage breakdowns or costly turnovers, especially late in a single-score game.
Field position becomes a penultimate key.
http://www.scout.com/story/1731476-scout-s-cyber-monday-sale-is-on?s=101 Unfortunately, a multitude of errors was how the cookie crumbled for the Broncos on Sunday night vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. There were several Denver breakdowns — a safety and free kick returned for a touchdown among them.
One of the toughest pills to swallow was Jordan Norwood's muffed punt early in the fourth quarter, which was recovered by the Chiefs. The Broncos were trailing the Chiefs by six points and the defense had just forced Alex Smith off the field on a three-and-out.
Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt was forced to punt from his own endzone. Had Norwood simply secured the catch, it would have given Trevor Siemian and company excellent field position, inside Kansas City territory.
Instead, the Broncos defense, which had been battling for three hard-fought quarters, were forced to trot back out onto the field. As Norwood was exiting the field, cornerback Aqib Talib and the defense were taking it. Talib could be seen shoving Norwood from behind, with some choice words.
The Broncos defense forced Kansas City to punt again on the ensuing possession, but it flipped field position, pinning Siemian and the offense back on their own 12-yard line. The Chiefs didn't get any points out of it, but it was a mental error in a high-stakes Divisional bout.
Talib was justifiably fired up, but every NFL player screws up once in a while. Norwood was already kicking himself, and likely didn't need one of his teammates to add insult to injury.
Perhaps Talib's frustration is symptomatic of a reported "rift" that's taking place inside the Broncos locker room, between the defense and the offense. The defense has carried this team for most of the season, and it's apparently wearing thin on them.
Norwood's muffed punt was technically a special teams gaffe, but nevertheless, Talib and the defense were frustrated. It's one thing to be emotional. But the concern is that where there's smoke, there's fire.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak commented on the Talib-Norwood incident via the Denver Post.
“Let me just say this: We compete at the highest level, and our guys compete all the time — practice, game, those type of things,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “I see guys competing, guys are upset. Jordan and Aqib are fine, I can tell you that. That’s not an issue. Obviously emotions get in the way and those are things we got to talk about and stuff and control our emotions. But it’s a very competitive environment down there and there was no harm intended, I can tell you that. Those guys are fine and we’ll continue to compete.”
It was a very tough loss and one that the Broncos can only hope to learn from. However, if there truly is a rift growing inside the locker room, that does not portend well for a strong, unified Broncos team heading down the stretch.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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