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Mason's Mailbag: On special teams, the buck stops with Brock Olivo

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

What can the special teams do to get past the mistakes of last Sunday in Buffalo?

-- James Garcia

Work on attention to detail to ensure that the mistakes -- particularly an illegal-formation penalty that effectively led to a 37-yard field-position swing on a second-quarter punt and the breakdown on the third-quarter fake punt -- do not happen again.

These were the moments to which Special Teams Coordinator Brock Olivo pointed. During his press conference Friday, he put the finger of blame squarely on himself, saying, "That's on me," multiple times. In doing so, he channeled the philosophy of a famous fellow Missourian, President Harry Truman, who had a sign with the words "The buck stops here" on his desk in the Oval Office from 1945-53.

So that's how Olivo handled it. The next step was in addressing the miscues and ensuring that they don't happen again.

“You come in and you lay down the tone from meeting one of the new week," he said. "You roll up your sleeves and you get back to work." That means not only emphasizing technical details, but dealing with each player individually, knowing that each one might need various styles of feedback to improve their play.

"Everyone reacts differently to that stuff. Some guys you can come down real hard on, some guys you have to admonish and so you kind of have to figure out what kind of players you have in front of you," he said. " It’s back to work, [saying,] 'Get your game face back on, fellas, because I let the team down this week and we can’t let it happen again.' We have to get back to work and make plays for our team moving forward."

"I know my guys will react well," Olivo added later. "They're good pros."

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How can a loss help this team?**

-- John Morton

It's pretty simple: Losses can be cathartic -- especially when they are preventable. Late-season two-game losing streaks for the 1997, 1998 and 2015 Broncos helped bring those teams together and get them back on point for their title runs. You never want to fall, but if defeat is used properly, it can help, and the examples of this could fill an encyclopedia.

Sunday in Buffalo, the defeat involved some circumstances beyond the Broncos' control -- a tip-drill touchdown, Tyrod Taylor completing a long pass despite being crushed by Shaquil Barrett -- but also witnessed penalties and other miscues that are fixable.

“It wasn’t as bad or as terrible as you would think it was after a loss," said running back C.J. Anderson on Monday. "There are just some things that we need to clean up as an offense that we know we can clean up."

Still, Head Coach Vance Joseph expected to see more urgency from his players throughout the week than he witnessed last week. He got it.

"It’s natural when you don’t win a football game. It’s our team's first loss this year," he said Friday. "It’s natural to bring guys back and to get more focused and more detailed in their jobs. So, yes, it’s been that way all week."

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Do you think there will become a division in the team over some players kneeling and some not?**

-- Sam Stephenson

No, and I think the players' message issued Thursday in which they announced that they would stand together for future national anthems put an end to the discussion revolving the issue as it regards the Broncos.

It also emphasized that players want to do their part to "continue driving that positive change" in areas they want to address away from football. The issues that drove the decision of players to take a knee last weekend haven't gone away. But a player like Brandon Marshall stands an example of how to take a protest to the next level, to turn it into action and increased engagement and involvement in community endeavors in Denver and his hometown of Las Vegas.

“To make true change you have to get out there and do it," Joseph said Thursday. "Taking the knee obviously has brought some attention to some issues in the country, but what’s the end game? You have to go out there and make true change."

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I have a question regarding teams with tough schedules and how their players hold up against injuries. I think it's a strength for the Broncos to have the toughest schedule in the NFL this season, since upon making the playoffs, they will be tough as nails and ready to step on throats.**

A friend said ‘true, unless they get beat down by injuries.' It made me think about stats on such things. Do teams with a higher rate of games against teams with winning records from the previous or current season suffer more injuries that those that have 'easier' schedules?

My initial thought is that players may play slightly lighter against perceived 'easier' opponents, on the whole (the best teams won't but maybe the mean leans this way) but is this true? And, does that equate to more injuries against winners or losers?

My counter-thought is that injuries come mostly from physical circumstance more than the skill-level of opponents. What do the numbers say?

-- Bruce Wilson

It's a fascinating question. Getting to those numbers would require going through years of data and injury reports, and the hours required for such a project are prohibitive during football season. So this is not something that can be reasonably researched at this time.

I agree more with your counter-thought, though -- I don't think the rate of injuries has anything to do with the quality of the opponents on a team's schedule. Other factors, ranging from the ability of an individual player to play through and recover from injuries to the training staff's work to the condition of the fields on which teams must play to the inherent physicality of the sport to luck play far bigger roles than the quality of the opponent.

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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