New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount scores between Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, left, and inside linebacker Corey Nelson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey
December 18, 2016

DENVER (AP) The Broncos defense kept Tom Brady in check. Now, they're trying to do the same with their frustration.

What little hope Denver has at salvaging its playoff chances after a 16-3 loss to New England on Sunday is clearly dependent on a defense that, stellar as it may be, simply can't win games on its own.

This year is not a repeat of last season, when the Broncos (8-6) rode the defense all the way to a Super Bowl win.

This version of the Denver defense keeps getting betrayed by everything on this team - a fumbled punt by returner Jordan Norwood, a costly interception in the red zone by Trevor Siemian, an offensive line that struggles to run block and receivers who have trouble holding onto the ball.

Frustration? It was barely disguised after the latest loss knocked Denver out of a playoff spot as it stands with two games to go.

''Y'all see what has to get changed,'' cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. ''I'm not going to speak on it too much.''

No need to. It was glaringly obvious between a Patriots team gearing up for a Super Bowl run and a team whose title defense could be over before the playoffs even start.

Denver's ''D'' held Brady to 188 yards passing and no passing TDs. And the only touchdown the Patriots (12-2) mustered almost didn't happen. Dion Lewis fumbled on the goal line, only to recover it. A play later, LeGarrette Blount barreled into the end zone to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead.

These days, given the offense's struggles, a seven-point deficit feels like much more.

''We felt like we played almost good enough defense to win that game,'' Harris said.

Standing in the way of any potential conflict is Von Miller - the keeper of the peace in the locker room.

''There's not going to be any friction. I'm the partition,'' Miller said. ''It's just a tough loss. It's hard to accept it, especially when you put so much in during the week and knowing what this game means to us, our organization and our fans. We've got two games left. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be ready to go.''

Still, it's a long shot, especially going to Kansas City on Christmas Day to face the Chiefs. The Broncos have historically not played well in Arrowhead this time of year. They close the season by hosting Oakland on Jan. 1.

''I'm not really thinking about the playoffs. I'm thinking about going to play Kansas City,'' Miller said.

The frustration is understandable. The Broncos have allowed a grand total of three touchdowns over the past three weeks.

Their record: 1-2.

''That's not going to take us nowhere, being frustrated and beefing with the offense,'' said cornerback Aqib Talib, who pushed Norwood after his costly fumble in a loss last month against the Chiefs.

This time, when Norwood fumbled, Talib walked past him. The Broncos defense bailed him out by allowing only a field goal.

But Norwood isn't the only problem.

Demaryius Thomas had two big dropped passes - including a long pass down the sideline - and Siemian was intercepted by Logan Ryan.

''Frustrating, no doubt, especially early,'' Siemian said. ''We were moving the ball really well and don't have any points to show for it.''

If someone would've told Talib that the Broncos would hold Brady to 16 points and they still would've lost, his only response would've been: ''You lyin','' he said.

The cold, hard truth.

Brady began 0-for-6 passing, which ties his longest drought start a game in his career. He was held to a passer rating of 68.2 (in contrast, Siemian had a 73.1).

''You can't get us down, man,'' Ward said. ''We're the best. Can't beat us. We're the best. Keep working until we get those wins.''

---

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

You May Like