The Denver Broncos‘ 2012 NFL season was a myriad of surprises that took the league by storm as they melded into a rhythmic machine that was able to reel off 11 wins in a row and garner the top seed in the AFC. But somewhere along the way, the Broncos, led by Head Coach John Fox and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, while turning into that machine, lost the one aspect of this sport that you must carry into gameday: heart.
Say what you will about the game yesterday. It was a great game. One with many twists (Champ Bailey), turns (Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones), excitement (Trindon Holliday), drama (Ray Lewis) and hard-hitting action. But the one thing that the Baltimore Ravens always bring on the field with them is heart: A passion to advance to their next opponent at all costs.
That was the difference between the Broncos and Ravens in yesterday’s divisional round playoff game. During their 11 game win streak, the Broncos started the transformation into a complete team that, under Manning, had to be perfect and precise, while merely going through the motions. But maybe what the Broncos need to work on in 2013, is allowing themselves to go through the emotions.
Football is an emotional roller coaster that needs to be experienced, and the Broncos did not look like they were getting mad at being pushed around in the trenches. Bailey looked as if he could just merely re-group and make the next play, which was after the third time he got burned by Torrey Smith. No emotion.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil did not seem as if they could use their emotion to get at Flacco all throughout the game, as the NFL’s best pass rush looked like they couldn’t be bothered on Saturday. Maybe Miller should have stuck with his old shoes instead of making a switch this late in the season.
Manning looked as if he was disgusted, but not angry, that he was consistently making mistakes. He seemed as if he was just waiting for his defense to step up and be the leader on the field yesterday. And Fox just appeared plain beaten when he decided to take a knee before halftime, with 31 seconds on the clock, two time outs and Manning as his general.
The Broncos won as a team all year long, and yesterday, they lost as a team. I’ve said it before, you can never teach heart in any sport. The Ravens came out with that heart. That is something the Broncos need to seriously evaluate as they head into their off-season. It starts with coach Fox. This loss was not on one player. This is what the Broncos do better than any one team in the game. They play as a complete team, and they lost as a complete team to the Ravens.