ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — John Fox’s moves keep backfiring like an old jalopy.
Denver’s new coach has been scrutinized for starting Elvis Dumervil with a bum shoulder in the opener and trusting that Brandon Lloyd could come back from injury in Game 2, when the Broncos were forced to use Tim Tebow in the slot after Lloyd was scratched and Eddie Royal got hurt.
The coach and his calls are being second-guessed anew after Fox decided to forego a sure field goal at Tennessee on fourth-and-goal Sunday only to watch Willis McGahee get stuffed short of the goal line, a failure magnified when the Titans rallied for a 17-14 win.
Fox insisted Monday that he’d make the same call again.
“You know, I’d like people to be reminded, that’s a pretty good defense we played,” Fox said. “They’re a top 10 to top 5 defense … and they got after a pretty good Baltimore Ravens team the week before.
“And would I have changed some things? I’d have changed enough that we could have gotten a touchdown. But that’s easy to do now.”
One thing he wouldn’t have changed was his quarterback, Kyle Orton, who threw two 5-yard TD passes earlier in the game.
Asked about not using the “Tebow Package,” which produced four touchdowns in similar situations last season under predecessor Josh McDaniels, Fox retorted: “We had two touchdowns yesterday in the same situation; we just needed three.”
And yes, Fox, said, there is indeed a set of plays in his playbook that are designed to capitalize on Tebow’s skills in short-yardage and goal line situations.
“Without announcing things competitively, I would say we’ve practiced a lot of that,” Fox said.
He just hasn’t used them in a game yet, although he said he considered all his options in crunch time Sunday.
“It’s all a consideration. Every play is a consideration,” Fox said. “When they work, you’re a genius and when they don’t, you’re an idiot.”
Tebow is still a work in progress as a passer but he can certainly punch it into the end zone like he did so often at Florida.
It’s just that Fox trusts he has better options this year with McGahee in his backfield, a new corps of tight ends and a beefier line with 330-pound rookie Orlando Franklin at right tackle.
“They were all considerations, all the plays, all the players, all the personnel groups,” Fox said.
So, did he not think Tebow could help him?
“No, I didn’t say that,” Fox replied. “We just didn’t choose him.”
The Broncos have four touchdowns in eight trips into the red zone this season.
On Sunday, Von Miller’s strip-sack of Matt Hasselbeck at the Titans 13 put them in position to put the game away. On first-and-goal from the 2, Orton threw the ball away when his tight end was covered, then McGahee was stuffed for no gain and pushed it inside the 1 on third down.
Fox initially sent out his field goal unit but as Orton pleaded his case, Fox called timeout and then sent his offense back onto the field to go for the touchdown instead.
“It wasn’t so much changing the mind as it was seeing where the ball was spotted,” Fox said.
After the timeout, the ball was moved back a tad to the hash mark, however.
“When I saw the spot and we made the decision, it was inside the 1,” Fox said. “When I turned on the tape, it looked like it was at the 1.”
Fox said he wasn’t criticizing the officials and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
“No, I think our issues started at first-and-goal from the 2,” Fox said. “And look, I’m not trying to wipe off that decision. I made that decision as I told you guys yesterday. I would do it again. I would just hope that it worked out differently.”
Instead of running the ball on the right side behind the Broncos’ best run-blockers in guard Chris Kuper and Franklin, McGahee ran the ball over center and was stonewalled.
“It happened so fast, so all I could do was put my head down and go forward,” McGahee said. “But, we didn’t get a good push up front. We got a little push, but we didn’t get the push that we needed.”
There may be second-guessing outside of Dove Valley but inside, they’re in lockstep with their coach.
“I think any time you are on the road and you have a chance to go up 11 and put the game away you have to try and do it from a half-yard,” Orton said.
Denver defensive captain Brian Dawkins said Fox made the right call.
Then again, he acknowledged that he’d have his coach’s back no matter what.
“Whatever happened in that situation I was for,” Dawkins said. “If we go for a field goal, I’m for that, and if we go for it, I’m for that.”
Just as disconcerting to Fox as the fourth-down failure was the Titans’ subsequent touchdown drive.
“With a 14-10 lead, you can’t let an opponent go 95 yards and get the winning score,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, it’s on all of us. It’s not on one guy. It’s not on the quarterback. The quarterback and the head coach get most of the blame, most of the credit when things are good. In this case, it’s the Denver Broncos who are 1-2.”
And Orton has done nothing to cause him to consider a change at QB, either.
“I know that’s a popular belief,” Fox said, “but there’s a lot of people in our building that understand quarterback play, and right now Kyle in our opinion gives us the best chance.”
By AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)