Still a cheerless celebration for Denver Broncos
The commemorative T-shirts and caps proclaiming the Denver
Broncos 2011 AFC West champions sat mostly untouched in the team’s
locker room Monday.
After watching replays of their 7-3 loss to Kansas City, the
Broncos still weren’t in any mood to celebrate their return to the
playoffs after a six-year absence.
”Nah, we’re not excited about that, man,” linebacker Joe Mays
said. ”It’s like we got the championship by default. You know, you
want to be in control of your own destiny, and we don’t feel like
we played good enough to actually own up to being division
”We feel we should have at least played good enough to earn
being a champion.”
The keepsakes were handed out Monday at the team’s headquarters
rather than at the stadium Sunday night after the Broncos backed
their way into the postseason party when Oakland lost to San
”I wasn’t expecting our locker room yesterday to be jubilant by
any stretch of the imagination,” coach John Fox said. ”I wouldn’t
expect it to be any different because they had to watch it over
”We’ll have time to get them in the right frame of mind.”
The Broncos (8-8) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) next
A day after losing to former teammate Kyle Orton and the Chiefs,
Tim Tebow walked through the quiet locker room Monday with a big
ice pack on his right shoulder and guard Chris Kuper hobbled in on
a broken left leg that landed him on injured reserve.
”He’s a real big loss,” rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin
said. ”He definitely was the bus driver on my side. He was making
all the calls, and whatnot. Russ (Hochstein) stepped in and did a
good job yesterday.”
The Broncos fortified their line Monday by signing tackle Ryan
Harris, who was a three-year starter in Denver from 2007-10. He
hurt his back last summer in Philadelphia and reached an injury
settlement with the Eagles.
At the film session, captain Brian Dawkins, who’s been sidelined
by a neck injury, addressed his teammates with a rare speech.
”The primary message coming from that meeting was that the
Kansas City game, it’s gone,” tight end Dante Rosario said. ”We
watched the tape. We studied it. We need to correct our mistakes in
that game to make sure it doesn’t happen this week.”
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard said Dawkins addressed the entire
team one other time, when the Broncos stumbled to a 1-4 start and
made the switch from Orton to Tebow.
Dawkins’ admonition might be the only way he can contribute in
these playoffs. He sat out Sunday and his status for the game this
weekend is uncertain.
The Broncos have lots of flaws that require a quick fix. Among
them: a stagnant offense led by turnover-prone Tebow and a stalled
pass rush stymied by Von Miller’s injured right thumb.
Tebow, the author of a six-game winning streak and five
fourth-quarter comebacks this season, has regressed over the last
month. He’s completed 30 of 74 passes (40.5 percent) for 439 yards
and one touchdown with four interceptions, three lost fumbles and
nine sacks in losses to the Patriots, Bills and Chiefs.
After the first four-turnover game of his career at Buffalo on
Christmas Eve, Tebow looked timid Sunday, unwilling to throw in
tight spaces. Afterward, he looked shaken over his 6-for-22 passing
performance that produced a season-low 60 yards.
”He’s doing the best to help us win and we had a little bit of
a struggle yesterday throwing the ball,” Fox said. ”That happens
sometimes. Credit to the Kansas City Chiefs. They have a pretty
Not as good as Pittsburgh’s.
”It’s going to be tough sledding for sure,” Fox said. ”They
are the No. 1 defense over the regular season in many critical
areas, so there won’t be anything easy against the Pittsburgh
The Broncos’ strength is their ground game – they led the NFL in
rushing and set the franchise single-season rushing mark with 2,632
yards, led by Willis McGahee’s 1,199 yards and Tebow’s 660.
The Steelers are stout against the run, and with Rashard
Mendenhall out and Ben Roethlisberger dealing with a bum left
ankle, points are likely going to be at a premium much like they
were Sunday, when the Broncos fell to 86-3 when allowing seven or
Informed that fans are asking why the Broncos don’t try more
short passes and screens, Fox said, ”Their frustrations are
probably similar to mine.”
As boss, though, Fox could call more of those screens and short
”We do run short passes,” Fox retorted. ”They just didn’t go
so well. We called long ones, and they didn’t go very well,
When pressed whether that was Tebow’s fault, Fox said there were
”a lot of moving parts in the passing game,” and added, ”the
buck stops here, so you guys can blame me.”
Fox also sidestepped a question whether he’d consider benching
Tebow for backup Brady Quinn if the Broncos fall behind Sunday.
”I don’t do well with hypotheticals,” Fox replied. ”I
anticipate we will play very well this Sunday.”
Fox wouldn’t talk about Tebow’s ailing shoulder, either.
”There are a lot of guys with ice,” Fox said. ”That’s what
happens when you play a physical football game for three
Fox did say fullback Spencer Larsen had a sprained MCL in his
left knee. That means Austin Sylvester, who was signed last week,
might get the nod against the Steelers and their dominant
”Crazy things can happen, big things can happen for an
underdog,” safety David Bruton said. ”We saw the Packers do it
last year when they were the underdog. So, we could definitely turn
the tide and ride a wave through the playoffs.”
Notes: Fox implored Broncos season ticket holders not to sell
their playoff tickets to Steelers fans so the home stadium doesn’t
turn into a sea of black and gold. … The Broncos’ leading WR was
Eric Decker with just 44 catches for 612 yards. Not since the
strike-shortened `82 season did a receiver lead the team with fewer
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