ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -The hands of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan betrayed his frustration.
He fidgeted with his microphone cord Monday, wrapping it tightly around his finger and then unwinding it as he tried to think up new answers to the same old questions that have plagued his team.
``Obviously, we haven't played well,'' he said.
When the effectiveness of defensive boss Jim Bates was questioned, Shanahan went on the defensive, sticking up for his coach.
``As soon as there's a little adversity, it's going back to the coach,'' Shanahan said. ``We're all disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself. It's my job to get the job done. If we don't get it done, it comes back to me. Don't worry about Jim Bates. Talk about my situation. Do that and we'll be all right.''
Shanahan's situation is this - the team has dropped two in a row and is teetering on the brink of playoff elimination with a 5-7 record. The team is two games behind AFC West leader San Diego with just four to go.
The Broncos continue to play sloppy football, turning the ball over four times in a 34-20 loss to Oakland on Sunday. They also had a special teams blunder when Cecil Sapp ran into the punter to keep a touchdown drive alive and couldn't stop the run, giving up 146 yards rushing to Justin Fargas.
``There's disappointment,'' tight end Daniel Graham said. ``We have a lot of talent and we could be playing a lot better than we've shown.''
That's what frustrates cornerback Champ Bailey. He doesn't know from week to week what version of the Broncos will show up.
The week before in Chicago, Denver gave up two touchdown returns to Devin Hester and had a punt blocked. The Broncos blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, losing 37-34 to the Bears in overtime.
``I'm surprised we can play the way we have,'' Bailey said.
Yet Bailey won't allow Bates to be blamed for the Broncos' malaise on defense. Bates was brought in this season to help bolster a lackluster defensive front.
So far, it hasn't happened. The Broncos are second-to-last in the league in rush defense, allowing 149.1 yards a game.
``Coaches like to take responsibility for it, but I'm not buying it,'' Bailey said. ``It's not really coaching at this point. It's the guys getting into position, the position they tell us to be in. We have a lot of missed assignments out there. It (stinks) we're making those mistakes this late in the year.''
Asked if he has seen any signs of quit from the Broncos, Bailey emphatically answered no.
``I never see that,'' he said. ``Guys are still hustling. We don't have guys loafing. It's definitely not effort.''
Just missed tackles and assignments. Jerry Porter caught a 13-yard touchdown pass without a Broncos defensive back even near him. That was infuriating to cornerback Dre' Bly, who said Porter found the seam in Denver's zone coverage.
``We have to be more consistent and keep believing,'' Bly said.
Denver's offense kept putting the defense in bad situations. The Raiders scored 24 points off the Broncos' four turnovers, starting those drives on average at the Denver 29.
Even more, the Broncos also gave Oakland a new set of downs when Sapp crashed into punter Shane Lechler, which ultimately led to a touchdown.
``You give up 31 points with four turnovers and a mistake on special teams, you're going to have a hard time even competing in a game,'' Shanahan said. ``We'll keep working on the things we've done poorly and hopefully get a little better.''
Bly said it all boils down to consistency, something the Broncos have been lacking this season.
``We look like one of the better teams in the league one week and the next week we fall apart and play bad,'' Bly said. ``Good teams are consistent all the time. They find a way to win under tough adversity, under critical times. We have to find a way to be more consistent.''
The Broncos' postseason chances are fading fast. Bly knows it's going to take a four-game winning streak - and help.
``Things can happen for us,'' Bly said. ``But we have to win games. If we don't win games, then nothing will happen.''

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