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At the end of the day, Broncos can't get it done

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Clichés are for the lazy, but in this case, so many fit - and so many were true. Just like C.J. Anderson's final attempt for a first down, the Broncos just came up short. But unlike Anderson's effort, the team came up way short.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the day, the Colts just wanted it more and the Broncos didn't show up to play.

The problem with clichés - and you all know I'm no fan because they're lazy - is that they're true. That's why they are, after all, cliché.

And that Broncos' 24-13 loss to the Colts yesterday was one cliché after another.

"In playoff football you've got to bring your A-game," said Coach John Fox. "Truth be told, I thought Indianapolis played better than we did. I take all of [the responsibility]. I'm a head coach, the buck stops here. That's just the reality of what we do."

But - truth be told, at the end of the day - there was plenty of blame to go around.

From Peyton Manning's overthrows to Demaryius Thomas' dropped passes to the O-line's struggles to keep the quarterback from being hurried, manhandled and sacked - the offense just never looked good after the first drive.

And it was no better on defense where the pass rush never once got through a substandard offensive line that played out of its mind, and Jack Del Rio somehow reasoned that zone coverage was the best way to use his shutdown corners - even though time and time again Andrew Luck bludgeoned the defense in an open middle.

C.J. Anderson was a lone bright spot on the offense, rushing for an admirable 80 yards and adding another 29 in catches. He also made the play of the game by getting a first down on 4th and 1 that should never have happened.

Omar Bolden also upped his special teams game, tackling like a boss and doing his level best to keep the game from getting out of hand.

But for the most part it was a frustrating game to watch as our beloved team unraveled at home - starting with the quarterback.

After a great opening drive that included a 32-yard fade to Julius Thomas and a one-yard touchdown pass to D.T. the rest of the game was one missed opportunity after another.

"Not well. Not good enough. Didn't play well enough," Manning said of his game. "I give them a lot of credit. Their defense played well and their defense forced us into some bad execution, but I thought we had some chances as well, and I thought I could have played better."

No. 18 ended his 17th NFL season 26 of 46 with just 211 yards and one touchdown. Andrew Luck, Manning's successor in Indianapolis three years ago, only went 27 for 43 with two touchdowns - not remarkably better but enough better to show up the Broncos' offense and pick apart its defense.

It's just disappointing. Everybody would love to win their last game of the season in a championship game. It's competitive football out there and you have to play well every single time you play, especially in the postseason.   -Peyton Manning

"It's just disappointing. Everybody would love to win their last game of the season in a championship game. It's competitive football out there and you have to play well every single time you play, especially in the postseason," Manning added. "If you don't play as well as you possibly can against good football teams, it's hard to win."

Anderson - despite doing as much as he could to keep the Broncos' offense on the field - was unable to do it alone.

"It was just tough to do anything today. They made more plays, and me, individually, I didn't make enough plays," Anderson said. "If you don't make enough plays, you tend to lose games, and that is what happened tonight."

Anderson added that losing in the playoffs is as tough as it gets.

"I didn't want to go home. Who wants to go home? It hurts, and I shed some tears," he said. "It hurts worse when your teammates and coaches tell you how good of a year you had and people on the other side, the coach telling you you're a baller and they respect my game, but at the end of the day, I just want the win and we didn't get that tonight."

The running back also noted that the Colts defense didn't do anything surprising; the Broncos just couldn't handle it.

"They played man-to-man, stayed man-to-man all day. I mean, we knew what they were going to do. Just [we've] got to execute, and we didn't execute tonight and that's what happened," Anderson added. "They came in and did what they said they were going to do. ... but you've got to find a way to do better. We've got a whole offseason to think about it."

And unfortunately it's going to be a longer offseason than the Broncos were hoping.

The season's over. It's a huge disappointment. It's sad because we definitely had the potential to be a Super Bowl-winning team, but  it's not going to happen this year.   -Emmanuel Sanders.

"The season's over. It's a huge disappointment. We just didn't execute," said Emmanuel Sanders, who finished with seven catches for 46 yards, about half the total he's been known for this season. "It's sad because we definitely had the potential to be a Super Bowl-winning team, but it's not going to happen this year. I definitely wanted to do it for these fans. I feel like today I didn't play well either. I could've made a couple more plays and potentially help this team win. I didn't make it, so that's motivation for the offseason."

Demaryius Thomas, who admitted that he didn't know whether Peyton would be his quarterback and even if he would be a Bronco next season, noted that the hardest part of yesterday's loss was just knowing they should have done better.

"That is the toughest. Putting up 13 points and probably having 200 yards is one of the toughest things you can think about when a game is over like this," said the wide receiver. "As a team and as an offense we were totally better than what we put up tonight. I have to tip my hat to the Colts. They came out and did a great job, and they got the win."

Terrance Knighton, who had made some big promises before the game, didn't back down from his opinion of the team's potential but also registered his "disappointment."

"A lot disappointment; I felt like we had a good enough team to Super Bowl this year and we didn't quite do that," Knighton said. "We picked a bad day to have a bad game. When you're going against an elite quarterback like Luck, you can't have a bad game."

Chris Harris Jr. had perhaps one of the most honest comments on the night.

"I just feel like we wasted a lot of hard work," said the cornerback. "When you lose, you don't reach your goal, you just feel like you wasted all that time to not reach your goal."

Aqib Talib - who had just four tackles and only one pass defensed, giving him a -4.2 rating from Pro Football Focus - didn't have an answer for what went wrong on defense. But he too had a cliché to offer.

"We'll have to watch the tape, which we're probably not going to do. Luck did something though. At this point, we don't even really know what he did. He did something though. He did enough to win," said Talib, adding that what the defense did offer wasn't enough, especially his coverage of T.Y. Hilton, who had four catches for 72 yards. "They had 24 points, we had 13. It definitely wasn't good enough."

"Not good enough" was a common theme.

"We didn't play a good game tonight and in the playoffs you can't do that," said DeMarcus Ware, who had just three solo tackles and never made it the quarterback before he got the ball off. "Andrew Luck is a good quarterback. He's one of those quarterbacks that can string plays out and that's what he does best. He made a couple big plays on us and now we just have to think about how we can get better and move on."

We fought hard. There is a lot of stuff that we've got to get better at. I'm still confident in the team that we have and the team that we will have. We lost. It was tough, but I don't think this loss will define our team in the future.   -Von Miller

Ware's "other half" of what was supposed to be a formidable sacking duo this season, Von Miller, added that there will be a lot of plays on his mind for weeks to come.

"We fought hard. There is a lot of stuff that we've got to get better at. I'm still confident in the team that we have and the team that we will have," Miller said of the shortcomings and the future. "So I'm confident with where we're at, and I don't think this loss defines this season. We lost. It was tough, but I don't think this loss will define our team in the future."

No. And it shouldn't.

Though the naysayers are/will be out in full force after this game, it would be a shame to make more out of the disappointment than it is.

It hurts; it stings; it sucks, much like it did after the Super Bowl loss in February.

And it will hurt for a long time, especially since it came after a game in which the Broncos played nowhere to their potential and a lack of preparation by the coaches was exposed.

But at the end of the day, the biggest cliché of them all rings true.

It is only a game.

It was just a terrible one.

---

Warning: The following editorial statement is for fans ready for perspective and may not be suitable for all audiences. If you're still booing your quarterback, still too angry about the loss to watch Sports Center, and still too mad to accept the season for more than its final game, then move along, nothing to see here. I don't agree with booing or giving up on supporting your players because of a heart-crushing loss. But, I get it. Losses suck.

If, however, you need something to make you smile, consider this conversation with my 4-year-old during the final two minutes:

"Mommy, are the Broncos going to win?"

"Unlikely. It would take a miracle."

"Can a miracle happen?"

"Well...it has before, but the Broncos need more than one tonight."

"Are the Broncos going to win the Super Bowl?"

"Not this year. They're not going to go."

"I want them to win the Super Bowl."

"Me too. But we'll have to wait for another year."

"Can I still wear my Peyton Manning jersey?"

"Of course."

"Are you going to wear yours?"

"Absolutely."

"Good. Me too."

VERY proudly wearing my No. 18 today, along with my boys.