On Monday, after the news had broken of the Denver Broncos extending wide receiver duo Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton, respectively, general manager George Paton took to the podium. Paton wanted to keep the focus of that impromptu congratulatory presser on the two newly-paid wideouts but the topics eventually strayed toward the philosophical.
Paton was asked about his outlook on the Broncos and the seven games remaining in the 2021 season. His answer was intriguing and could be interpreted as a sort of throwing down of the gauntlet at the feet of Denver's coming opponents.
“We’ve talked about this," Paton said. "I just want to really leave it to talk about Tim and Courtland. We’ve talked about the team. I still believe in this team. Obviously, the last two weeks it’s been up and down, but you saw what we can do when we put it all together against Dallas.”
Paton is referring to the Broncos' stunning beatdown on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9 that saw the 10-point road dogs win handily 30-16. On that day, not only did everything seem to go right for Denver but the players and coaches managed to capture lightning in a bottle.
Meaning, it wasn't just about catching a previously one-loss team slipping. The Broncos, as a collective, played inspired football. From the coaches to the players, everyone executed at a high level and wore their emotions on their sleeve.
It was a palpable shift from the heretofore lukewarm energy the Broncos had displayed. After all, a team tends to take on the emotional complexion of its head coach and quarterback and neither Vic Fangio nor Teddy Bridgewater are the firebrand type.
On that day in Dallas, though, Bridgewater played with passion and Fangio could be seen on multiple occasions hollering and pumping his fists on the sideline. It was infectious and the players and coaches absolutely caught the bug.
Even after the slaughter, Fangio said, "How 'bout them Broncos?"
What am I getting at? Football is absolutely a physical team sport. It's very much about being the more physical team and out-executing the opponent.
But the word that often gets overlooked in the what-it-takes-to-win equation is intensity. Why does the NFL playoff tournament often look so different than its regular-season counterpart?
Trust me, it's not just because it's a single-elimination proposition. Sure, because teams know that one loss ends the season, the intensity naturally rises a notch or two. The teams that can sustain that elevated intensity are the ones who go the distance.
The Broncos sit at 5-5 and if they're going to defy the oddsmakers and charter a trip to the playoffs, these final seven games will have to be played with the intensity and leave-it-all-on-the-field abandon of a postseason mindset. Anything less, or any watered-down half-measure, and the Broncos will do exactly as Vegas expects and wither into the obscurity of what would be the sixth-straight season without a playoff berth.
Paton knows that. Despite this team's considerable personnel losses due to the injury bug, Paton saw the size of the Broncos' heart in Dallas.
The question now becomes, who among the coaches and team captains can tap into that heart and coax out that level of intensity and want-to down the stretch?
All will be known in due time.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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