Broncos coach says loss holds good lessons
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Now, that's how most of their fans feared the Denver Broncos would play this season: dominated on defense, overpowered on offense, squelched on special teams.
It took two months for it to happen.
So, rookie coach Josh McDaniels has some fixing to do as the Broncos (6-1) try to bounce back from their beatdown in Baltimore, and they'll have to do it without one of their best offensive linemen.
McDaniels said right tackle Ryan Harris won't play against the Steelers next week after sustaining a toe injury in the Broncos' 30-7 loss at Baltimore.
Harris, a third-year pro from Notre Dame, has started 22 consecutive games for one of the league's best offensive lines. He was replaced in the first half Sunday by second-year pro Tyler Polumbus, who is in line to make his first NFL start against the Steelers next Monday night.
Polumbus, an undrafted second-year pro from the University of Colorado, also spelled Harris in Week 3 when he went out with a shoulder injury in the second half against Oakland.
"Tyler went in and did a decent job, hung in there. Again, they've got some really good pass-rushers off the edge. He was matched up on (Ravens linebacker Terrell) Suggs on more than a few plays and handled the bull rush and speed rushers and those kinds of things," McDaniels said.
"But Tyler's been in this system as long as anybody else has this year, so he's familiar with what we're doing. We always give him plenty of reps in practice. He handled himself well in the preseason. We'll expect him to go in there and play well."
And he expects the rest of the Broncos to play a whole lot better than in Baltimore, where they were outscored, 24-7, after halftime, gave up a touchdown on special teams for the second straight week, and couldn't move the ball much, resulting in eight punts for newly signed Mitch Berger.
"You always hear players say, 'We'll have to look at the film,' but most of us know where we messed up," safety Brian Dawkins said. "Now, we just go back to practice and work on correcting our mistakes. I've lost games before. Everyone on this team has lost before. The goal is to learn from this game and move forward."
McDaniels pointed the finger of blame at everybody, from coaches to players — starting with the man in the mirror.
"They were coached better, played better, more physical, played faster basically in every area of the game. And we certainly didn't do nearly enough in any phase to win the game," McDaniels said.
McDaniels was noticeably subdued Monday following the first loss of his head coaching career.
"I think we always learn things that we need to do better no matter if we win or lose," he said. "... I think that obviously losing a game really makes the mistakes that much more glaring and the need to fix things more urgent."
Slow starters all season, the Broncos felt pretty good about themselves trailing just 6-0 at halftime. After all, they had outscored their opponents 76-10 after the break.
But Lardarius Webb returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and after that, the Broncos did little right and nothing well.
"Our plan didn't come together as we thought it would," McDaniels said.
Even with more fast, physical defenses on the horizon, McDaniels said he won't be tempted to change his offensive approach, which has been described by outsiders as only slightly less conservative than Fox commentator Sean Hannity.
"Nope, I mean I've game-planned a lot of years against a lot of good defenses and we need to have a good plan each week that certainly gives your team the best chance to win, and then we need to get our players to execute that plan ... better," McDaniels said.
"If we have a good plan and we execute it, then we win. And if we have a bad plan or we don't execute a good one — it doesn't really make any difference — the other team's going to usually come out with an advantage."
So, was the blowout in Baltimore a case of an inadequate game plan or poor execution?
"It's both," McDaniels said.
The more pertinent questions are whether the Ravens exposed the Broncos' warts and provided a blueprint on how to defeat Denver and its brash young coach. Other teams will watch the film and gather clues, so McDaniels knows the mistakes have to be fixed fast.