Like it has been since day one of training camp, there are only two possible results for the 2013-2014 Denver Broncos — Super Bowl XLVIII Champions or joining 31 other teams in defeat.
While everyone has an opinion about what happened in Sunday’s crushing 34-31 overtime loss to the Patriots, the fact remains the end goal is still palpable and the fate of this season is still entirely in the hands of the 53 men who suit up every Sunday wearing that iconic orange and blue.
When all the dust settles around both the positive and negative reactions from last week’s epic showdown in New England, the common denominator will be that there is plenty of football to be played this season and the Broncos are still in control of their own destiny, even if the team doesn’t end up with the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs.
Would it benefit Denver to secure home field advantage? Of course. However, what’s more important than winning the remainder of their regular season games is that the Broncos don’t let Sunday’s defeat define them as a team — treat it as a speed bump, and move on.
Remember, this team didn’t have any speed bumps last season until they ran into a brick wall on Jan. 12, 2013 and made a premature playoff exit. Hopefully, this season’s team doesn’t meet the same fate, but it all depends on how it rebounds from last Sunday’s sting.
Any team that’s ever prevailed as world champions, in any sport, has had this type of moment in their season and has had to overcome this overwhelming and suffocating adversity.
It doesn’t matter how good Denver has looked at points this season, and it matters even less how big of a lead they blew Sunday night, what truly matters for this club is to get back on the football field against the Kansas City Chiefs this week and play with a short memory.
The Broncos know they can hang with the best the AFC has to offer — they got their revenge early in the season against the defending world champion Baltimore Ravens, they handed Kansas City its first loss two weeks ago and they played Indianapolis and New England down to the wire in tough road games.
These are the same teams Denver will have to go through in the AFC Playoffs if they want to accomplish everything they set out to accomplish back in June — and no, I don’t mean Peyton Manning breaking all the league’s passing records.
And this is perhaps the best thing to come from Sunday’s loss. Although they’re 1-2 in games against the AFC’s elite, Denver knows it can beat the best — it’s all about execution and desire.
We all saw what happened on Sunday: the Broncos played too conservatively on both offense and defense, failed to win the turnover battle (again) and, ultimately, played scared to a superior, hungrier, and more fearless team.
Now, it’s gut check time for the men we all root so passionately for.
It’s not a moment every team can deal with — and certainly not every fan can come to terms with, but I like the Broncos at this crossroad.
They only have two directions to choose from — the path to becoming world champions or the path to becoming forgotten forever. They can’t go backwards.
Sunday is a part of history and the results won’t change. However, the legacy of the loss is still very malleable.
When the football historians write about the 2013 Denver Broncos years from now, the first chapter could be “A Cold Night in New England.”
We have a long way before we get to the final chapter.