DENVER — The Denver Broncos saved some of their best defense for after the game.
At issue: boss John Elway labeling them soft. It didn’t sit too well with a few of the players, though others welcomed the critique.
Yet the comments didn’t stoke the necessary fire, either, as the Broncos lost 20-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, extending their losing streak to six games.
“None of us are soft,” said linebacker Brandon Marshall, whose team met Saturday night to discuss the remarks by their Hall of Fame QB turned general manager. “For him to call us soft, it just rubbed us the wrong way.
“You get shunned out of this league for being soft.”
It’s been an awful stretch for the Broncos (3-7), who’ve dropped six in a row in the same season for the first time since 1990. What’s more, it’s the first time they’ve lost to the Bengals (4-6) at home since 1975.
“This isn’t the culture here,” said quarterback Brock Osweiler, who two seasons ago helped lead the Broncos to a win in Super Bowl 50. “The standard here is to win championships, get to the playoffs every year and contend for Super Bowls, and right now we’re not playing football like that. So, it’s very frustrating.”
Once again, turnovers became an all-too-familiar theme. The Broncos were knocking on the door in the first quarter when Osweiler tried to hit Cody Latimer in the end zone. Instead, Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick stepped in front of the pass and nearly took it the distance before knocking the ball out of his own hands and recovering it at the 1-yard line. The Bengals converted to take an early lead.
Broncos running back C.J. Anderson also had a costly fumble in the fourth quarter. He was emotional after the game.
“I just can’t do that to my teammates,” Anderson said.
In addition, kicker Brandon McManus converted a 61-yard field goal just before halftime that would’ve made it 13-10, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called timeout moments before the kick. The next attempt was blocked by KeiVarae Russell.
Just the way things have been going lately.
“We’re a good team. We’re not putting it together,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “People are going to get nippy with each other. Got to get in between that and be like, ‘Hey, look, we have to stick together. We’re all we got. Everybody is against us now. Everybody hates us. Nobody likes us.’ When you’re losing, nobody likes you. Nobody likes a loser. They want winners.”
As for Elway’s comments, Wolfe said it put the team on notice.
“If that’s how he feels, then we got to make sure he don’t feel that way,” Wolfe said. “If the boss says it’s not good enough, it means everybody’s not doing good enough. It means everybody is probably going to get fired. I’m just trying to make sure we stay together.”
Receiver Demaryius Thomas thinks Elway might be on to something, even if the truth hurts.
“He wouldn’t’ have said it if he wasn’t telling the truth,” Thomas said. “We’ve lost six in a row. I think there’s a little softness in there somewhere. He was talking about everybody, including me. I try to make my game better every week. We got to figure it out. I really don’t know what to say.”
On this afternoon, some of the biggest roars were for Terrell Davis and his fellow Hall of Famers when they were introduced. There were quite a few boos for the play on the field.
“No energy, no life, no juice in the stadium,” Marshall said. “I’ve been here since 2013, when Peyton (Manning) was here and threw seven touchdowns in the first game. Just from then on, I’ve always felt like the stadium gives you extra juice. ... But today was the first time I was like, wow, this kind of reminds me of Jacksonville stadium.”
Marshall puts the blame on the team for not drumming up more excitement.
“We’ve got to give the crowd something to cheer for. We’re not giving them nothing to cheer for right now,” Marshall said. “We’re not putting a product out on the field that makes them want to get out of their seats.”