PHILADELPHIA—Vance Joseph was asked if at times he saw some quit in his Denver Broncos’ defense Sunday during its 51-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Times like on its final play of the first half when Jay Ajayi in his brand spanking new green Eagles’ uniform ran 46 yards for a touchdown, and first play of the second half when Corey Clement was given credit for 28 yards even after a teammate was flagged for holding.
“I told the team this after the football game: Every man has to do a self-check of himself,’’ Joseph said. “And each man would know what his heart said to him in the fourth quarter. That’s where I’ll leave that.’’
To a man, not one Denver defensive player said he quit or noticed anyone else on their unit who did.
All those missed tackles, though, not to mention allowing 51 points, sure made it look like they did.
“I missed a tackle, too, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t trying,’’ said Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe. “I was trying to go for the ball, that’s why. Normally, I’m trying to tackle the player, not try to grab the ball out of his hands. I missed it but that’s what happens in game like that. You try to do something else. I can’t accept that guys weren’t out there not trying.’’
Still, this wasn’t exactly the 0-16 Lions of 2008 that got steamrolled. The Broncos entered this game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, No. 2 in defending the run. They won’t be ranked near that high anymore after they surrendered a C-note for the first time since Josh McDaniels’ final season as head coach in 2010 – and a whopping 197 yards rushing.
There were times in the second half, when the Broncos’ effort appeared, say, 75 percent-hearted.
“The effort was terrible,’’ said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “You can’t have that type of effort and expect to win against a team like that. They’re a really good team, though, man. Got to tip your hat to them.’’
Not bringing maximum effort on certain plays is not the same as quitting, Harris said. He didn’t see any surrender. Nor did linebacker Brandon Marshall.
“No, nobody ever breaks our will,’’ he said. “That stuff never happens. Nobody ever breaks my will. They just did some things – it was weird, man, we couldn’t stop anything. We couldn’t stop the pass or run, we couldn’t stop anything. It was never, we got our wills broke. We always fight to the end. It was just a freak-type game.’’
Indeed, the Broncos did score a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter when Von Miller strip-sacked mop-up quarterback Nick Foles and Marshall picked up the fumble and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.
Harris gave more credit to the Eagles’ scheme, which features their talented young quarterback Carson Wentz operating an option-style attack with ball fakes and sprint-out passes.
“This college offense is taking over the league,’’ Harris said. “We’ve got to figure it out.’’
Maybe, that was it. Maybe, the Broncos just met their match. Which is an even scarier thought, especially with the greatest quarterback of them all, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots are up next.
"Nobody quit," Wolfe said. “We didn’t give up. That’s ridiculous. They just bested us, man. They bested us today.’’