By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are times when the Patriots relentlessly out-execute a formidable opponent to the point of causing the other team’s frustrations to boil over. Sometimes teams lose it on the field during the game, sometimes the meltdown happens in the locker room after the game’s over, and sometimes their frustration manifests itself in the way they play in the following weeks. A new report suggests that one such meltdown could be underway in Denver.
According to a report by Michael Silver of NFL.com, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak asked if any players wanted to address the team when they convened in the locker room immediately following their 16-3 loss to the Patriots. Offensive tackle Russell Okung volunteered to speak, but cornerback Aqib Talib took exception to that and sparked a “spirited shouting match” between the Broncos’ defensive backs and offensive linemen.
It would not be the first time that the Patriots frustrated their opponent to the point of melting down. It’s quite possible that the Patriots’ Week 1 win in Arizona contributed to the early-season tailspin for the Cardinals, who couldn’t get out of their own way during a 1-3 start. The 2012 Houston Texans were never the same after the infamous “Letterman’s jackets” game in which they were thoroughly pulverized by the Patriots 42-14 on Monday Night Football. It’s not a terribly frequent occurrence, but sometimes the Patriots are so good they make other good teams fall apart.
Now, things could be unraveling for the Broncos, who could not get anything going on offense in a loss that had arguably the best performance by the Patriots defense that you’ll see all season. The Broncos (8-6) now need to win their two remaining games (at Kansas City, home against Oakland) and get some extra help to secure a playoff berth. That frustrating reality may have set in during that post-game shouting match.
As unwarranted as any outbursts may have been, Talib had reason to be frustrated about the Broncos’ poor showing on offense against the Patriots. The Broncos defense played well enough to win, holding Tom Brady and the Patriots to just 16 points, which in most cases would be enough to come out on top against any NFL team, let alone New England. The Broncos’ offensive line was one of their biggest downfalls as they struggled to protect quarterback Trevor Siemian, while the Patriots secondary matched the Broncos play-for-play in covering Denver’s formidable wide receivers well down the field.
The Broncos are an “emotional team,” as safety T.J. Ward intimated to reporters after the game when asked about the incident. The squabbles were part of “your classic offense vs. defense divide,” according to one unnamed Broncos player. But it remains to be seen if that divide deepens or if the frustrations spill out to the field in the Broncos’ final two games.
Those last two games, by the way, are no gimmes – it’s tough for any team to play on the road against Kansas City, while the Raiders (11-3) are going to be playing for home-field advantage. The aftermath of their loss against the Patriots – and how they look on both sides of the ball from here on out – presents a major test for the Broncos’ mental toughness and the strength of the character of their locker room.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.