ENGLEWOOD — On the day after the Broncos traded Emmanuel Sanders, Joe Flacco stepped to the podium and began receiving questions about his former receiver and his own lack of emotion.
Such is life in Denver, where the team owns a 2-5 record and clings to playoff hopes. Losses happen. It’s the nature of the last defeat that proved so troubling. The Chiefs mauled the Broncos, scoring the game’s final 30 points, including 20 without injured MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Flacco, in his first year as the Broncos starter, earned criticism for his performance, and lack of energy and urgency. I asked him Tuesday about the fingers pointing in his direction.
“I don’t really listen to it. You have to go back and look at the reality of the situation on film, make sure that you address all the right things and that you’re moving forward and correcting everything that needs to be done. Other than that, you really can’t listen to what people have to say. I let other people worry about that stuff for me,” Flacco said, before addressing not being more of a vocal leader. “Whatever, you’re going to keep saying that if you want to and at the end of the day, I am who I am. Listen, in this league guys are fired up and ready to play and sometimes you don’t play good games. Things like this happen and you’ve got to be able to rebound and go out there and play football. I know that we’re going to be able to do that. If I’m being somebody that I’m not, nobody is going to respect me in that huddle.”
Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay defended Flacco’s demeanor. He blamed himself for not making more plays and explained leadership comes in all different forms.
“Everybody is different. You can’t tell somebody to be somebody they’re not. Joe’s not a rah-rah dude, but he’s smart and he handles his business. We have to help him out. Everybody wants to say, ‘Joe this. Joe that,’ but we have to get open for him. We have to get open for him and we have to protect longer. Everybody gets paid to do a certain job and we have to do our job,” said Lindsay, who leads the Broncos with 433 rushing yards. “Joe’s not going to be one that’s going to get in your face and talk a lot, but he is one that talks to you and he takes accountability for his mistakes.”
Lindsay brings attitude and edge. Having grown up on Denver, it pains him to see the Broncos struggle. With trade speculation continuing to swirl around the team after the loss of his good friend Sanders – “If he’s happy, I am happy for him,” Lindsay said – the former CU star remains positive this offense can rebound against the Colts.
“You take it personally all the time. It was embarrassing (against the Chiefs). It really is. We came off of winning two games in a row, feeling good Thursday night and things just not going your way. That’s the NFL for you. The good thing about this is that it's just one game. We can go back to work and put ourselves in a good situation. There are a lot of games left. We just have to stay focused and stay positive. As long as the locker room is feeling good and we’re all on the same page, things will turn around.”
New No.1 target
What the statistics suggested, the roster now screams. Courtland Sutton is the Broncos’ top receiver, moving up two rungs in a calendar year with Sanders and Demaryius Thomas gone. Sutton struggled last season against No. 1 cornerbacks when Sanders missed the final four games due to injury, but said he’s ready for the challenge.
“I just show up and go to work every day. Nothing is really going to change for me,” Sutton said. “ I go out there and I put my best foot forward when I step on the field. Like I said, no matter where I was on the depth chart, it didn’t matter to me. I was going to go out there and put my best foot forward and that’s what is going to continue to happen right now.”
Coach Vic Fangio expects right tackle Ja’Wuan James to return this week, but not for 65 snaps. As such, all three tackles will play – James, left tackle Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson – though Fangio didn’t elaborate on the rotation. Bolles leads the Broncos with nine holding penalties. … The Broncos claimed rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Harris off waivers from Chicago. … Speaking on KOA, Broncos general manager John Elway did not rule out trading Chris Harris Jr. ... At his introductory press conference, Sanders addressed what happened after the Titans game and why he didn't play in the second half after Elway raised the issue on Tuesday. "After the Tennessee game me and John had a conversation in terms of the direction I wanted to go and me expressing that. He listened. Hearing the trade rumors. We both decided that it was best for me to go. I've only got two, three more years left, and I am trying to win a championship. And obviously they’ve got a young locker room over there. So we both made the decision that if a trade comes about he would keep me posted and possibly trade me. .... I went into (the Tennessee) game with a sore knee. Prior to that game I even went up to the training staff and told them about my knee being sore. I got into that game and my knee got a little sore and we decided as a whole that I shouldn’t play in that game anymore."