Elway, Fox answer questions about playoff loss, abrupt end to season

Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox (Left), Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway. Jan. 14, 2013

Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox (Left), Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway. Jan. 14, 2013

Denver Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Head Coach John Fox had an end of season press conference Monday.

The following is a transcript of what reporters asked them, and how they answered.

On the decision to run out the clock 0:31 left in regulation against Baltimore
Fox: “Well, going into a little bit of what happened before that, with :41 seconds left in regulation we watched a 70-yard bomb go over our head. There is a certain amount of shock value, a little bit like a prize fighter taking a right cross on the chin at the end of a round. We’re looking to get out of the round. That might not be the ideal time to go for a knockout punch. One of the things, when you’re a coach, you’re around the players for 20 games prior to that, including preseason. You get a little bit of a better feel of where they’re at—the look in the eye, their feeling. It was pretty devastating. It just didn’t seem the right time. It didn’t look like the right look, understandably, to go for the jugular right about then.”

On if the wind for a potential field goal had anything to do with the decision
Fox: “I think the wind out of our sails was more part of that decision than the actual wind. I’d do it again 10 times if it presented itself 10 times in that situation. Some people love comparing it to the Atlanta game. It’s not close to the situation because you’re going to lose the game if you don’t score. Ours is completely different, because we get to fight the next round. I think that was the thinking. Obviously, it didn’t get executed like we planned. But that’s on the coaches and players to execute better and we didn’t get it done.”

On giving up the 70-yard touchdown to tie the game
Fox: “I’ve never believed it’s one guy, one play. Obviously, it was a big play. The thinking on third-and-7 prior to that, personally, I’d do that again. If I knew they were going to get a 70-yard touchdown, I might have gone for it on third-and-7, but you know what they say about hindsight. The situation was, we were running the clock, make them use their timeouts, punt it away, they get the ball with 1:09 and they have to go 77 yards in 1:09. To make matters worse, we had them with :41 seconds and 70 [yards] to go. If you give a coach or player that opportunity, 10 out of 10 times to win a divisional round playoff game, they would take it. The percentages prove true. Ninety-seven percent, you’re going to win the game. The second one, with :41, it’s 99.9 [percent]. I wish we would have done a better job of coaching it and executing it than what happened.”

On QB Peyton Manning not throwing very deep down field
Fox: “A lot of times, a defense can dictate what you’re doing. I’d say that was more of the case in the Baltimore game than any other reasons. Cold weather has an effect on any athlete, no matter what sport. In my opinion, Peyton played well enough for us to win. We just came up short.”

On if the conditions prevented Manning from throwing deep
Fox: “You’d have to ask him that. I don’t believe so, but that’s a better question for him to answer.”

On how the team can get momentum back and get back on the right track
Elway: “I think having been through this before, and having been disappointed before, I realized that this was a possibility—that we could be unfortunately talking to you here today with our season being over, and unfortunately it happened. The bottom line is if we take this situation and how we learn from this situation—if we get defensive and don’t look at everything we did in this game and try to learn from it, then there is a chance we can experience it again. But if we really dissect it and really look at what happened, not only what happened in the game but also learn from what we did in practice with the bye, we’ll look at everything and learn from it. Hopefully, we’re back in this situation again and we will have looked at it the right way and learned from the situation.”

On if Saturday was just a bad day or whether there are fundamental things to revisit
Fox: “At the end of the day, this is going into the third offseason. If you just look back, you’re going to have holes and deficiencies on every team. Every team will look back at the conclusion of the season, whether they are a playoff team, a Super Bowl team or they didn’t make the playoffs. We’re going to work very hard again this offseason to get better. The draft, free agency, what we do with our own roster—we’re not that far along yet. As John [Elway] mentioned, this comes with a lot of good things. It isn’t all negatives. I know it was a very disappointing loss for everybody. I don’t know if I’ve seen fans be any more into a game than I did on Saturday afternoon or evening. I don’t know if I’ve seen a team work as hard as this team worked. We’ve accomplished a lot; not what we’ve wanted. As I mentioned postgame, there is only one happy team at the end. We thought we had a chance to get to that, but we came up short.”

On if this loss feels the same as when the No. 1-seed Broncos lost to Jacksonville in the 1996 playoffs
Elway: “Looking back as a player, it’s a little bit different. My window was a lot shorter as a player back in ’96 than it is now sitting where I am. So in that respect it’s different, but I think looking at it and how we deal with it, it’s the same and the bottom line is, it will be something that these players will remember for a long time. They’ll never forget what happened on Saturday. They’ll never forget that and I think we’ll use that as we did in ’96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have even a better year the following year as we did in ’97 so, like I said, it’s how we approach it, how we use it, how we learn from it and it gives us an opportunity to be that much better next year.”

On how tough the last 48 hours have been
Fox: “I think as a coach, and I know John [Elway], as a competitor, you relive it, you redo it, you second guess—I don’t even know how to explain it but it stays with you. We call them scars in our business and you remember it because it doesn’t go away like most scars and you learn from it. It’s like any mistake. First of all you, you’ve got to admit it, second of all, you’ve got to fix it and third of all, you’ve got to not let it happen again. I think that’s just part of growth and I feel good that we’ll learn from it and get better for it.”

On what adjustments were made at halftime to prevent big passing plays
Fox: “You’re never happy when you lose. I thought, there’s no doubt that three big balls, they got a 59, 32, and a 70, that’s not a formula for success, defensively, no doubt. They’ve shown the ability to do that and just going back to last week’s game, the wild card game versus Indy, a lot of big balls, most of them were to [Baltimore WR] Anquan [Boldin] and not [Baltimore WR] Torrey [Smith], but again, we had guys that—it was something we practiced, we weren’t caught off guard by it, we just didn’t execute, didn’t coach to execute. This is a ‘We’ game. As you listen to our players’ comments, coaches take it to heart, too. All of our signatures are on it and we’re all responsible for it.”

On hearing criticism and making the team better
Elway: “It’s how we look at it. As people, as players, as coaches, as personnel people, how we look at it—if we get defensive as individuals and don’t listen to the ideas of what happened and how we can learn from those, then, to me, we don’t get better, But if we listen to it, evaluate them and then correct them, then we have a chance to get better.”

On if the team got defensive toward the end of the game
Elway: “No, I don’t. I think we did everything we could. When you look at, as John [Fox] said, when you look at the last 30 seconds in the scenario that we were in there, as John [Fox] said, we were talking about it after we spent quite a bit of time the last two days just talking about different situations, but our guys were shocked when all the sudden you get a 70-yarder thrown on them and they score when there’s 30 seconds to go in the game and all the sudden it’s tied up going into overtime. We were in shock and I think that, to me, that was a good move to be able to regroup, get ourselves, get the guys back together and start the overtime period.”

On his thought in the decision to run out the clock 0:31 left in regulation against Baltimore
Elway: “I thought we did the right thing at that time. I think with where the team was mentally and the situation that we’re in, I thought that it was a good move.”

On the possession before the Ravens threw the 70-yard touchdown
Elway: “I think that, especially when you have a 70-yarder thrown on you, you can always go back and look at these situations. With no timeouts, when they had no timeouts, we can run the clock down to 1:15, as we did, then punt and they get the ball with 1:09 on the 25- or 30-yard line—wherever they got it, 25-yard line. I think we’re taking [it]. The percentages are with us and I think John made the right decision as far as the percentages are concerned that with the way we had played defensively, that the best opportunity for us was, especially with a seven-point lead, was, when they’ve got to go 75 yards with no timeouts in 1:09, the percentages are with you and the fact that you’re going to be able to stop somebody.”

Fox: “And the percentages on that, just so we’re all clear, on third-and-7, that’s probably about 38 to 40 percent. Seventy-seven yards with 1:09 and no timeouts is 97 percent. Then to get it to 41 seconds with 70 yards to go is, like I mentioned, 99.9 percent. That’s what we try to do is play the percentages. As I mentioned early, and I mean this with all sincerity, if I’d have felt like we were going to give up a 70-yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds to go, we might have reevaluated that, but that’s not what the percentages said.”

On people second-guessing the decision to run the ball on third-and-7 with a quarterback like Peyton Manning
Fox: “That’s understandable. That’s a choice we made and, honestly, I would do it again.”

On kneeling the ball in the final minute of regulation
Fox: Like I mentioned before, you look around on your sideline with 31 seconds to go, even with two timeouts, backed up, it didn’t seem like the right time, being on the ropes, to try to get a knockout punch.”

On why No. 1 seeds have a bad track record in divisional playoff games since 2005
Fox: “Again, it wasn’t like we came out flat [or] got blown out. I can’t say it was our best game, particularly defensively, but when you get to playoff football, those are good teams. That’s why the seeds are really meaningless. We said this before we went into the game. Playing at home obviously is an edge. Our fans were second to none. We lost a very close game [in] a very bizarre situation. You stay around this league long enough—I’ve been in 501 of them—you see those things occasionally.”

On how S Rahim Moore will bounce back
Fox: “Especially as a defensive back, we talked at length yesterday. Obviously, as upset as I’m sure our fans are and anybody who works in this building is, I think he probably would be the leading candidate. Being a DB, you have to have a short memory. I thought he made a lot of progress this year off of his rookie season. He improved a lot. He’s going to have to take that same approach this next year. He’ll learn from it and get better.”

On if any other defensive players could have done something different on the Ravens’ final play of regulation
Fox: “Yeah, you look at it. We rack our brains out, trust me. We’re more critical of us than anybody. There’s a few things we could have done better. Like I said, I’m not taking coaching out of it. Hindsight, I would say, is 20-20. You research it. It was sound, what we did. We didn’t execute it very well. It’s on us as well to work that situation more.”

On the Ravens’ offensive line
Fox: “They’re a good offensive line. They got [G Marshal] Yanda back, [who] is arguably their best lineman, who did not play with us the first outing. They had Bryant McKinnie at left tackle; he’s a Pro Bowl-type player. It was a different offensive line than we played the first go-round.”

On the team’s shock after giving up the 70-yard touchdown pass at the end of regulation
Fox: “I say this with all due respect when I say it about that look of shock. It happens to any competitor if it doesn’t go like you planned. My hat’s off to them. They regrouped in a very short time: two minutes. It was a competitive game, the whole fifth quarter there was no score. It wasn’t like we folded our tent or went into a shell or those types of things. We had chances in the overtime period. We just didn’t get it done.”

On how the coaching staff can adjust
Fox: “It’s like any game, you’re always looking to improve, whether it’s schemes or what we’re teaching as coaches or who we’re doing it with, and that’s part of this league. We’ve worked on it, unfortunately, in the offseason, and we’re in it.”

On what changes need to be made
Elway: “We’re going to go through that process the best we can and try to get better this offseason. Obviously, [we’ll] evaluate our team, No. 1, and figure out where we are and where we need to get better. [We’ll] look at the free agency market, as well as the draft, and we plan on getting better this offseason.”

On T Ryan Clady’s contract situation
Elway: “We’re going to try to get something done with Ryan. Hopefully [we’ll] get something done with Ryan.”

On if postseason performance affects his evaluation of a player
Elway: “I would say not [entirely], but obviously, you want to see how they performed in the playoffs. [That’s a] different level. As I said, you make your money during the regular season. You make your legacy during the postseason. In the postseason, it is another level. That’s a big part of it, because there is a different level of pressure there. I wouldn’t say that there’s one roster guy who will have a lot to say with that evaluation, but you definitely look at that.”

On if the season could be considered successful
Elway: “Sure. If you look at the regular season, we were 13-3, we won 11 games in a row. It was successful, [but] it’s disappointing. There’s a lot of good things that went on. If you look at where we were two years ago and where we are now, we’re making strides that we want to make. We know that we have to make some more, but there’s no question that it was a very good season for us. We won a lot of football games, the fans were great, the excitement is back, the connection is back, so it’s important for us to make the next step. Obviously, I wouldn’t say anything about the playoffs. As John [Fox] said, there’s only one happy team in this situation. Unless you play good football in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter where you get beat. I played bad in Super Bowls. We didn’t play as well as we could have Saturday, and you can’t do that in the playoffs. You’ve got to play good throughout the playoffs to win. As poorly as we played, we still had some chances to win that thing. I think you have to keep in mind that every team that’s in the playoffs is a good football team. To be World Champs, you have to play well in every playoff game to be able to win. We’ll concentrate on that next year. It’s a great learning experience for everybody on this football team, what we experienced this year, as I said, not only in the regular season, but in the postseason. There’s a lot of confidence back. We didn’t play well enough, but that experience will be very helpful for us.”

On Tom Brady’s statement that the best two teams in the AFC are in the conference title game
Elway: “I didn’t hear that comment. You know why [he said that]? Because they both won [this weekend]. I don’t know how you argue that point.”

On picking up QB Peyton Manning’s option on his contract
Elway: “We plan on doing that. But that comes before the new league year, end of February, when we go through that process, the physical and everything. Nothing has changed.”

On the team’s goal of winning the Super Bowl
Elway: “I’m saying the goal has not changed. The goal is still to be World Champions. Obviously, with what we did this regular season, we gave ourselves an opportunity in the playoffs. We put ourselves in the best situation you could possibly put yourself in going into the playoffs. But the bottom line is the situation doesn’t win the game for you. You still have to go out in the playoffs, and you still have to play well. You can’t make the mistakes we made to be able to beat good football teams. Because everybody in the playoffs is a good football team, especially in the Divisional Round. We just didn’t play well enough to win. To be World Champions, there were a couple times in my career [where] we played well in the first two games and didn’t play well in the third. In this one, we just kind of moved it up to the first round.”

On Manning looking for a second Super Bowl
Elway: “At 36 years old, Peyton and I are tied. He’s got one more than I [had] at that age. So we still have years left. So that’s why the goal is still the same, to continue to do that. Believe me, we did not want to be here talking to you today, no offense. Nobody in this organization, nobody in that locker room. It’s a matter of trying to evaluate where we are, what we did wrong, and try to get better from it. Hindsight’s good, but you have to learn from the hindsight too. That’s where you learn from, you look back, you say what could we have done differently and how do we get better from that.”

On if destiny is a factor in the playoffs
Elway: “It comes down to the teams that are playing the best. That’s why when you look at it, you see fourth and fifth-seed and sixth-seed teams that have won the Super Bowl. More fifth seeds have won the Super Bowl than anybody. If you look at it, a lot of times they get hot. Look at the Giants last year, when they get hot for the playoffs and they’re playing their best football, that’s when you have to do it in the playoffs. That’s why a lot of times you see lower seeds, which I think has happened several times, that have been Super Bowl champions because they get on a roll and they play well. We were on that roll and we played well for the last part of the season, but we just made the critical mistakes against a good football team that you can’t.”
Fox: “We still had a chance to win the game. You fight in games to have that opportunity. Like I said, we came up short.”

On if there is ever a feeling of destiny
Fox: “I think when you have a really good team and they have a real good team spirit about each other, sometimes you probably get that feeling, and that’s really everybody. Our city, our fans, the media, the coaching staff, the players, everybody felt that. For it to come to a screeching halt, I think it’s disappointing for everybody involved.”
Elway: “When you look at the Ravens, they played well. [Baltimore QB] Joe Flacco really played well. [Baltimore WR] Torrey Smith really played well. They made some big plays, great catches. Flacco put the ball on the money. They did a good job of protecting him. They did a good job on the defensive side, they didn’t allow us to get any big plays, they kept everything in front of them. They played very, very well. We talk about us, but the Ravens had a lot to do with how we played, too, because they played very, very well.”

On how the team played with new coordinators this season
Fox: “As I told the team, we had new play callers on both sides of the ball. This team came a long ways and learned a lot. I thought it was remarkable, if that’s what you’re asking, what he (Manning) was able to accomplish. A new city, a new team, new teammates. I can say lot of the same things about our defense. We changed coordinators and they changed. So we made a lot of progress. I think it will just get better.”

On Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy potentially leaving for a head coaching job
Fox: “No different than [Former Defensive Coordinator] Dennis [Allen] left a year ago. I think that worked out alright. I don’t have any reasons to think any different. Right now Mike McCoy’s still our offensive coordinator and that’s the way we’re marching on.”

On whether CB Champ Bailey would move to safety
Fox: “I don’t see that.”

On if the defense was the most disappointing aspect of the loss to Baltimore
Fox: “It’s just all disappointing. I don’t know that it was one of our best performances. We had been very, very good on third down. I thought that was a big difference. We’d been good since [the] Houston [game in not giving up] explosive passes. If we’re just talking kind of what happened, an evaluation, those things came back to bite us in that game Saturday. Nobody takes it to heart. There were a lot of different things that happened at all different times in that game where we had chances and didn’t make it. Like I said, we all had our signatures on it, including me.”

On how to motivate the team to keep goals in tact
Elway: “I think because of the situation we were in last year, it adds incentive to next year. I think the motivational piece will be obviously to get the opportunity to get the year we had, get back and have that No. 1 seed and have learned from the situation we were in this year. If you’re saying, would it be tough for us to do that tomorrow? Sure it would. These guys are hurting. No rehashing this game, but I will tell you they’ll have a good offseason, they’ll rejuvenate, get into the offseason program and by the time we get into training camp, we’ll be looking at this as something we can learn from. Hopefully use that as a battle cry going into next year.”

On how long it took to get over the loss to Jacksonville in the 1996 playoffs
Elway: “I don’t remember, but I know it didn’t take long because I felt like we had a good football team coming back as we do now. Hopefully, this offseason will make it better. We’ll come back and compete, which is what we have to do. We have two new coaches in the AFC West. Our goal is still going to be going back and winning the West. There are going to be two new coaches that we’ll have to adjust to in the West. We’ll take it a step at a time. I think as a player, you get disappointed when you lose games like this.  But then again, once you get back in, you feel good about it, you get that opportunity to go back and compete for next year’s Super Bowl and that’s what we’ll do.”

On if he knows why the team didn’t play well
Fox: “You can analyze it anyway you want. The reality is, it wasn’t one of our better efforts, but as John [Elway] said earlier, your opponent has something to do with that. The Ravens played very well against us, particularly in the passing game. They have been five years in the process. We’ve been two years in the process. They were in the championship game a year ago. We weren’t. All those experiences John was talking about [with] players—our players heal in time because time does heal. They’ll come back with a fire in their belly of wanting to get back like most good teams do. We’ve got a good team, as people and players. We’ll get an opportunity to build on that, along with experience. We’ll head into Year Three of this process and hopefully make as good a jump as we did from last year to this year.”

On if there are any additional messages to younger players who took the loss hard
Fox: “People are just different. They are all competitors. There are a lot of good guys in our locker room. As I told our team, I feel for them. They put a lot into this. They do feel that sting and that pain. I think they’ll be better for it. Guys like [LB] Von Miller, a lot of guys that we can mention. We’ll get better for it. There are a lot of young guys that are still growing. There is nothing like experience.”

On how QB Brock Osweiler progressed and whether he is still considered the QB of the future
Fox: “I believe so. Brock didn’t get as many game situations. I think that’s a positive thing [that he didn’t have to]. When he did, I thought he did well. You get evaluated on how you perform on Sundays or Mondays, whenever they line you up. I thought he grew. I like his temperament. I feel really positive about Brock Osweiler.”
Elway: “He made progress. We got a chance to know what he is as a guy and person, and how he is on the practice field and he fit well in this building. He fit in really well with his teammates and working with Peyton. I’m thrilled with his progress so far.”

On evaluating free agents
Elway: “I think where we were is, trying to add veteran leadership there and also add depth. We were looking for, to get through a 16 game schedule, guys that fit in the locker room the right way. We were very fortunate with the guys that came in. You look at [LB Keith] Brooking and [S Jim] Leonhard and [FB Jacob] Hester and [C Dan] Koppen, they were all guys that came in as it worked out and were a huge contributor for us on the field and also what they did in the locker room. So, I’ll evaluate all those guys, but as John [Fox] said, we’re going on our third year. This will be our third draft. The guys that we drafted two years ago and last year—I hope there are some guys we’ll get in this year’s draft and we’ll start filling those slots that we envisioned for them. I know there have been a lot of things out there that were old and this and that. To me, we had the right mix. We’ll continue to work with that. If we need help and we need depth, we’ll try to find it.”

On CB Omar Bolden being able to compete for a cornerback position next year
Elway: “You bet. And Omar’s a competitive, young, tough guy that did a heck-of-a job on special teams for us this year. It’s funny, John [Fox] and I were sitting, having breakfast this morning and [Bolden] dislocated his shoulder [against Baltimore] and was there in case we needed him for the rest of the game but his comment was, ‘I’m coming back next year to take somebody’s job.’ I said, ‘I like that. I like that attitude.’”


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