Normally one of the more talkative players in the Patriots' locker room, cornerback Deltha O'Neal surprisingly declined all interview requests in San Diego following New England's blowout loss to the Chargers.
You would, too, if you got burned as badly as O'Neal did by the San Diego passing
"I feel embarrassed. I feel down," said O'Neal, who got beat early
and often in New England's 30-20 loss. "I feel like there were things I
could've done that could've changed the outcome of the game, but I'm my own
worst critic, so I sat there and thought about it these past couple of days
and on the flight home.
"I'm over it now. It's just one game."
The truth is, O'Neal struggled against the 49ers in Week 5 as well, but most
of his problems went unnoticed in the grand scheme of things since the Patriots
won the game. Sunday night's gaffes in coverage turned out to be much more critical
as the Chargers attacked O'Neal on the opening play and never looked back.
Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 306 yards, including
a 48-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage in which wide receiver Vincent Jackson beat O'Neal over the middle of the field and caught the ball in stride.
"They tried to take their shot. I guess it was a good call for them,"
O'Neal said Wednesday. "As a corner coming in, you would never expect that
on the first play. It was a good call on their part.
"I'm just fortunate that I got him down, otherwise he would've scored
and that would've really been embarrassing. It was just a good play."
O'Neal even got beat on plays in which he covered well, most notably a 49-yard touchdown catch by Malcom Floyd in which the veteran cornerback positioned himself properly, but couldn't strip the ball from Floyd's hands on the way down.
"I was in great position to make a play," O'Neal said. "They
just came out with the ball and my experience being in the NFL, nine times out
of 10 if I'm that close to the ball I'm either picking it or knocking it down.
Good job on their part."
O'Neal has been the target of heavy criticism this week for his performance
against the Chargers, but he clearly has the support of his teammates, who provided
encouraging words on the way home from San Diego.
"I talked to a couple of my corners and they helped me out on the plane,"
O'Neal said. "They said, 'Don't worry about it. It happens. At least you
didn't get blown away. You were right there,' which is true. It happens. (The
way) I look at it, they get paid, too. My job is don't make it a reoccurring
event. Try to stop that from happening."
As veteran safety Rodney Harrison pointed out Wednesday, everyone on defense
should share the blame for Sunday's meltdown after allowing 404 yards of total
"We all have an opportunity to play better," Harrison said. "Whether
you missed a tackle, whether you missed a coverage, something mental -- the
mental aspect of the game -- we all can play better. Obviously, in a loss like
that it's disappointing, so it's easy to sit back from a media standpoint or
even a team standpoint and try to point fingers. We're sticking together.
"We've been through times before. There's a lot of football left. From
week to week, people jump on and off the bandwagon, but it's what the 53 guys
in this locker room think."
SERIES HISTORY: 40th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead the all-time series, 24-15. Longtime Denver head coach Mike Shanahan has had surprising success against Bill Belichick's Patriots with a 5-2 record since 2000. Overall, the Broncos are 9-2 against teams coached by Belichick, which includes the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos have won the last three games between the two teams, including an AFC divisional playoff victory in January of 2006.