ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** As the Broncos prepare to open their postseason run in the divisional round for the fourth consecutive year, the team recognizes that it cannot lack in focus like it did a year ago when the team lost to the Colts 24-13.
To fall in their first playoff game and to do so without "kicking and screaming," as Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway famously put it, was sobering for a team just a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance and it led to a coaching change that would overhaul how the team played.
Four days: The Broncos are getting closer to kickoff for their divisional round game against the Steelers.
A year later, the Broncos are in a nearly identical situation coming off a first-round bye to begin the playoffs at home, but they're intent on avoiding last year's calamitous outcome.
"We've been so good [in past years] that we get into the playoffs and we think we're just going to do the same things that we've done to people during the season," tight end Virgil Green said of the team's previous mindset. "I think this year, guys are a lot more focused."
Why the Broncos overlooked the Colts last January revolves around myriad reasons for lacking focus, multiple players noted, but the foremost one was that they were already looking past Indianapolis to playing New England in the AFC Championship.
"I think we were focused on New England," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "We just knew we were going to tear [up] Andrew Luck and his Colts and knock them out, get them up out of here and we were ready to go to New England. So when I look back on last year, it was a lot of Next week, we'll go to New England and we've got to play Gronk like this. It was a bunch of future talk when we didn't even beat the Colts yet. I think that was our biggest problem last year."
However, that isn't a topic of conversation this year, Talib said. The team is dialed in on the Steelers.
"Guys are more focused, more locked in," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Guys just want to get this win so bad and everybody's so focused. We're not focused on the other stuff that's going on after the season, and we're just focused on the now."
While offseason distractions might have plagued the Broncos a year ago, complacency is no issue for the AFC's top seed this year.
"It's where we want to be at, but it's not the end of the road," Talib concluded. "We've just got business to take care of. […] We've all been here before; we've just got to prepare and take care of our business."