ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Since he was hired in January, Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph has consistently preached accountability to the team's players.
There is even a spot in the team meeting room where "Truth" has now been painted on the wall as a reminder. And after the last two weeks Joseph has practiced what he has preached -- even about his own game-day decisions.
In Sunday's 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, it was a fake punt in the final minute of the third quarter on a fourth-and-2 from the Broncos' 31-yard line. The Broncos trailed 20-16 at the time and rookie running back De'Angelo Henderson was stopped for a 1-yard gain.
"Watching the tape [Sunday] night and [Monday] morning, if the ball was snapped at the appropriate time, in my opinion, it would have been a good play," Joseph said. "Now, it didn't work, so it was a bad play. It's solely my fault."
The design of the play was for the Broncos' offensive line to jog off the field with the rest the offense after the third-down play. Then the linemen were to mingle in with the group of special teams players who were set to run back on the field and join them in the formation.
Then, the Broncos hoped, they would have their starting offensive line on the field to run the play against a Bills' personnel group on special teams that included largely defensive backs at the line of scrimmage.
However, the Broncos were one player short when they lined up and cornerback Lorenzo Doss was a late addition to the formation and a player running on late has always been a red flag for a potential fake punt for any special teams unit set to return a punt.
"We had the perfect look, but we were short one guy," Joseph said. "So when he ran on, it gave them a chance to see what we were doing."
Joseph briefly considered calling a timeout after Doss had run on to the field, but still felt like the Broncos had the advantage so he let it go.
"We still had a great play," Joseph said. "I didn't want to waste it by saying, ‘I'm watching. I'm watching, OK. Should I bail this team out?' I didn't want to do that. Again, it didn't work. So that falls on me."
The public mea culpa follows another from the Broncos' dominating win over the Dallas Cowboys the week before. In that game the Cowboys were at their own 25-yard line with 1:38 left in the first half.
They gained seven yards on a first down pass, but because of where he was standing on the sideline, Joseph said he believed the gain was closer to four yards. So, Joseph called a timeout with the belief, at second-and-6, the Broncos defense would hold and the Broncos could get the ball back before halftime if he used a timeout after each Cowboys play.
Instead, it was just second-and-3 and the timeout gave the Cowboys a chance to gather themselves. They converted the first down on the next play and added a field goal six plays later, just before halftime.
"The timeout was on me," Joseph said last week. "I had three timeouts and offensively we were rolling pretty good … It was a [seven]-yard gain so I shouldn't have called that timeout … that was strictly on me."
Joseph went as far as to call it a "rookie mistake by a rookie head coach."
The Broncos players have appreciated Joseph's straight-ahead approach with them and with himself in the early part of his tenure.
"[Joseph] keeps it real," said cornerback Aqib Talib. "He tells you how it is across the board. I think people like that."