ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When the price of self-inflicted mistakes is the first loss of the season and a suspension for Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib, everyone is on notice.
As a result, Head Coach Gary Kubiak had no trouble getting his players -- particularly on defense -- to sit up in their seats Wednesday and take notice when he spoke of penalties caused by anger and emotional reaction, and not by physical play.
"He's talking about the things you can control," defensive end Malik Jackson said. "The Aqib thing, and me throwing the ball at the guy in the Raiders game, those things are the ones he's talking about -- the things that we can control."
"Obviously, penalties after the fact -- they're not acceptable, because those hurt our time," added ILB Brandon Marshall. "But [until] the whistle, we just have to be smart, without taking away our aggression, without doing the things that we've been doing to be successful."
Whether it's fair or not, the Broncos are getting a reputation. And it feeds on itself. The perception that a defense plays to the limit -- and beyond it -- brings greater scrutiny from officials, and could perpetuate the Broncos' current standing as the league's leading defense in personal fouls called.
"I told the players that you're not going to get the benefit of the doubt sometimes whenever you're that high," Kubiak said. "You start to get reputations in this league. It's something that we have to change."
And if it doesn't change, it means the Broncos might be called for penalties that are borderline, at best -- like on the field-goal attempt when Danny Trevathan was whistled for holding.
"To me, that means that they're watching us extra closely. If you watch that play, he [Trevathan] was not holding [the Colt player's] arm at all. I'm not sure whether the other teams are saying something or whether they're coming to the game knowing the Broncos have X amount of personal foul calls and these guys are known for it.
"They're watching, they're anticipating the personal foul almost. They're anticipating the flag.
"We can't control that. What we can control is our effort. We can control how we play—being smart and not putting our team in bad situations."
It's a matter of changing the infractions -- not the style of the defense. If any throttling back compromises the aggression of the defense, then it loses the quality that propelled it to the top of the league rankings in yardage allowed on a per-game and per-play basis.
"I know one thing: I don't want to lose the way that we're playing defense," Kubiak said. "I don't want to lose that in the back half of the season, but I do definitely want to correct and cut down on the penalties that we've had. Special teams and offense have not been bad, but defensively, we have to get them corrected."
His players listened.
"As Coach Kubiak always says, you never want to take away the aggression. As soon as you do that, then you're playing on your heels," Marshall said.
"You take away aggressive, you're not playing as aggressive. You're not playing as good as you were before. I think most of the best defenses in the past have been really aggressive. I think Seattle has had the most penalties the last couple years as a defense. We're having the most right now."
So not all the penalties will stop. But the ones involving the loss of composure which doomed the Broncos late in Indianapolis on Sunday ... those are the ones Denver's defense must eliminate.