As the Seahawks attacked repeatedly on rushes at the heart of the Broncos’ defense Saturday, Joe Mays was angry. Two nights of sleep did little to soften his emotions.
“It was terrible. It was terrible,” Mays said, repeating himself for emphasis.
“We gave up too many big plays. Most of it came from the run. So we just have to be better. We have to continue to come out here and work hard each and every day and just try to fit up these runs a little better than what we did.”
Mays took it personally that Seattle’s top three running backs (Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington and Robert Turbin) ran for 68 yards on 15 carries behind the Seahawks’ first-team offensive line, which blasted open holes at the expense of Denver’s defensive tackles.
But it was a missed tackle that hurt the most — not merely because it sprung yet another run, but because it cut to the core of Mays’ offseason of work — which was focused above all on avoiding the missed tackles that plagued him last season.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was high enough on Mays to help ensure that the Broncos re-signed him in March, then declared later in the offseason that his emphasis on larger defensive tackles would help Mays avoid missing stops, since he would have less territory to cover because the tackles could better handle offensive linemen at the point of attack. This would leave Mays free to make the tackle, since he wouldn’t have to grapple with offensive linemen releasing downfield for supplemental blocks to spring the runner to the second level.
But when Mays had a chance to stop Turbin at the line of scrimmage halfway through the first quarter, Mays glanced off the rookie’s torso. Turbin wouldn’t stop until he’d gained eight yards — keeping the Seahawks chugging toward a field goal.
In the greater scheme of the game, eight yards wasn’t much. But Mays was disappointed with himself — and remained that way Monday.
“I was disappointed, man. I was a little upset with myself,” Mays said, a pained look crossing his usually-smiling face. “That’s one thing that I wanted to wipe out.
Mays is the rare player who admits his awareness of public criticism. Many are, but profess to ignore it. Others successfully tune it out. Two days later, he knew what critics would say — in part because he might read it, but also because he feels the same way.
“A lot of people said I missed a lot of tackles, and I did. You know, I wanted to kind of wipe that out a little bit and I kind of set myself back just for a quick second.”
The emphasis this week should be on technique, Mays says — not just for himself, but the whole defense.
“It’s all technique,” Mays said. “The personnel — we can play our base personnel against whatever personnel they put out on the field, but if you don’t have the right technique in there, if you’re not playing the right technique, you’re going to lose.”
Mays knows it starts with him. Everyone must work on it, but a defense must thrive from the inside out, and Mays is at its heart. If the heart can’t pump blood, the body dies.
Mays and the Broncos have to improve
“It’s going to get better,” Mays said. “It happens to the best of us. But I just have to continue to keep a positive mindset, keep coming out here and working.”