The Denver Broncos' locker room has a whole different vibe and energy these days, especially in the wake of Sunday night's 21-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. In the sporting pantheon, it's often asserted how "winning cures all," and the Broncos' four-game victory streak has super-injected confidence into their bones.
Undoubtedly, head coach Sean Payton has put his team in a position to challenge for a playoff berth, but for now, he's more than content to bang the drum for his players to show "demonstrated ability" — the root of attaining confidence.
"I mean, we're talking about—listen, we say it all the time. How do you have confidence? You do something," Payton said post-game Sunday. "You guys become more confident when all of a sudden, you put together a few good pieces—you gain confidence, and it has to be gained through demonstrated ability."
All those years spent coaching in New Orleans taught Payton to maintain a balanced approach to his craft. Remaining grounded in reality amid the ups (and downs) of a football season serves as an example to his assistants and players.
Despite maintaining that stoic mindset, it doesn't stop Payton from enjoying the winning moments when they arrive — even if it only serves to keep the misery at bay for another week.
"It's nice to feel that in this locker room right now," Payton said. "It's nice to feel that momentum. There's nothing like winning. You hear the music, and it's hard to explain. There's part of it is, and I'm going to say this—after you've done it a while, there's an element of relief that you don't have to deal with, like, misery for a week."
After vanquishing a Vikings squad that had won its last five games, the Broncos are now riding the league's hottest winning streak, which puts a sizable target squarely on their backs. Over the last three weeks, the difference-maker has been the defense's ability to create 12 turnovers.
The Broncos' newfound predatory brand of defense has served up some eye-popping metrics, which many analysts have already suggested are unsustainable over the long haul. However, this historic takeaway run the Broncos have been on has kept them in games and set the table for the offense to score some points, even if it's in the closing minutes.
Denver's forthcoming opponents will inevitably focus on having better ball security so as not to play straight into the hands of Vance Joseph's opportunistic defense. That being said, Payton believes that Joseph's unit can continue to be the difference-maker by getting its greedy paws on the football.
"Well, it's always sustainable," Payton said of the takeaways. "Finish the season, and you look at teams—I've been a part of teams in the 30s [total number of takeaways]. My point is, it's not a matter of whether it's sustainable or not. Whether you get three in a game or not, it can vary. But we do have to pay attention to the film."
Living in the moment, Payton no longer aimlessly circles crummy sushi joints after games. He's gone straight to grabbing some juicy pizzas; big wins are worth celebrating, after all.
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