ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Since starting the season 6-0, the Denver Broncos are 2-6. The goodwill coach Josh McDaniels built up in that hot start took a hit Sunday.
Fans spent plenty of time Sunday night and yesterday complaining about the stunning, 20-19 loss to Oakland. They wondered why offensive tackle Ryan Clady got more plays called for him than running back Peyton Hillis, Denver's leading rusher last year. They wondered where the deep ball or anyone not named Brandon Marshall has gone in the passing offense. Many argue the playcalling has become predictable.
During the team's first five losses, four of which came against winning teams, McDaniels wasn't judged very harshly. After this loss, he took some share of the blame.
"I think you always look at it and say, 'What could I have done different? Is there a different call that I could've made?' " McDaniels said. "I think as a coordinator or a head coach, playcaller, game planner, you always want to call the perfect play.
"If you feel like you could have done something different, then the next day is always that day where you look at it and say, 'If we had only called this, maybe that would have worked.' "
McDaniels, whose team plays Sunday at Philadelphia, didn't want to single out any of his coaching decisions that he would do over. He defended some of his calls after the game, like the Clady screen pass (a gadget play he thought would work) and some running plays (he said you can't ditch the running game when a few plays don't work early on).
But, as in every loss, there are some coaching regrets.
"We put it on our shoulders every week as coaches," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. "Every week we go into that, saying what can we do a little bit better, is there a different formation or can we move guys around or who is the best guy to do this?"
The players weren't off the hook either. McDaniels made it a point to say the plan and the players' execution need to "marry together." The Broncos failed in plenty of crucial situations, and it wasn't just poor playcalling.
"They played better than we did in those situations, that's just the bottom line," McDaniels said. "And coached better."
One theme among the Broncos yesterday: Despite the stunning defeat, they still control their playoff destiny. With two more wins they clinch a playoff spot; with one more win they would need some help but still could get in.
"We're not dead," McDaniels said. "We're going to keep playing, and we've got to get better at some of these things, certainly." *