The Broncos aren't likely to pity New England for its personnel struggles. But perhaps they can empathize.
"Chris Harris [Jr.], starting cornerback for us, tore his ACL and will be out the remainder of the season," John Fox announced Monday.
It was not the first such announcement Denver's head coach has made this season.
All-Pro offensive tackle Ryan Clady was the first starter to hit IR. Free safety Rahim Moore was next, though designated to return for the playoffs (his status is still unclear). Then fell defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, defensive end Derek Wolfe (he may or may not return Sunday), and All-Pro linebacker Von Miller. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard, tight end Julius Thomas, and receiver Wes Welker all missed at least two games for injury between October 6 and the end of the regular season.
Losing Harris Jr. one week before the AFC Championship?
"It's terrible news," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said.
Linebacker Paris Lenon agreed: "It is another disappointment for us -- somebody else that we’ve been battling with that has been a huge part of this team and this defense that is down."
San Diego signal caller Philip Rivers certainly took advantage Sunday.
Harris Jr. suffered the knee injury in the third quarter of last weekend's divisional playoff. Denver was ahead 17-0 at the time. But once the dynamic Broncos cornerback went down, Rivers raised his offense right up. He lead back-to-back touchdown drives that included a 30-yard third-down completion and a 49-yard fourth-down bomb.
But as the Patriots know, there are 28 teams not currently headed for conference title games; nobody wants to hear you whine.
Fox invoked the "next-man up" philosophy in his press conference (you didn't think New England was the only team to use it, right?), and many of Harris Jr.'s teammates have already moved on.
"Doesn’t change much," safety Mike Adams said. "Obviously, it hurts that he’s gone and he’s out for the season. If you look at our season, we had [CB] Tony Carter in there making plays, we had [CB] Kayvon [Webster] in there making plays, [CB Quentin Jammer] in there making plays. I don’t see it changing too much.
"Obviously, it hurts, like I said, that he’s down. But we’ve got to keep going because we still have goals."