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Instant Reaction: Will the Denver Broncos rise above or cower from recent defeats?

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There's one way to find out, and the Broncos have two more games to show us.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Losses happen in the NFL.

That's why just one team in the history of the league has gone unbeaten. It's hard to win games in the NFL. As the old cliche goes, "Anything can happen on any given Sunday."

But winning is next to impossible when a team beats itself. When it leaves plays on the field. Doesn't tackle. Gets out-coached. Doesn't make adjustments. Can't block. Can't catch. What's unfathomable is this is the second week in a row the Denver Broncos completely dominated the first half only to get completely dominated in the second.

Can John Elway petition the NFL to have games end after the first half? That's the only way the Broncos have a chance at this point, since lately they're prone to embarrassing themselves by not playing in the second half.

However you slice it, whatever spin you throw out, the 34-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers is an embarrassment. Denver should take two showers for that dirty performance in the second half.

This latest crushing defeat stings even more when you consider how well the Broncos played in the first half. For the second week in a row, they looked the part of the best team in football.

What happens at halftime with this team? Do the players think the game ends or that the opponent won't make adjustments?

Once is an accident, twice is a habit. Or in this case for Denver, a problem. This is two-straight games now where the Broncos had no business losing. But they found a way. Hey, at least they're consistent.

So kudos to Vernon Davis and Demaryius Thomas for once again delivering game-changing drops.

But this goes well beyond dropped passes.

This was a total team effort. Everyone should step up and claim their prize.

Here's the beauty of the NFL: you move on to the next.

How fitting that Gary Kubiak could actually say, "We're on to Cincinnati."

That's how the Broncos have to take this latest crushing defeat. They don't have a choice. They can't go back and replay the second half. As much as the coaches and players would like to, there's no reset button. They have to take their lumps and work to get better.

"We've lost two-in-a-row," Kubiak told the media after the game. "Tough games, but that's the (NFL). Key thing is: Do you learn from it?"

Given this is the second-straight week this has happened to Denver, that's easier said than done. It would appear the Broncos didn't learn anything from last week, since it happened again.

It's clear whatever is done in the locker at halftime isn't working. Scrap it and try something else.

Again, that's the beauty of the NFL. "We're on to Cincinnati." What happened, as embarrassing as it was, means nothing now. The Broncos take what they did well (the first half) and work to improve what they didn't (the second half). More than ever, the team has to remain positive and keep its eyes on the final destination.

Everything this team wants is still within reach:

  • AFC West title
  • First-round bye in the playoffs

Don't lose sight of that. Denver has to rally as a team to make that all happen. As painful as it was, the key is to not let these defeats and bad times define the Broncos' season.

The comparison has been made to the 1997 team that lost two-straight games it should have won in December. The comparison is not for the teams. Take that out of the equation. It's made to show teams encounter tough times. They hit a spell where they couldn't do anything right over the course of 60 minutes.

It's how those teams respond to those situations that leads to eventual success or failure. Will the Broncos rise above it as they did in '97? Or will they cower in the corner as they did in 2006?

Losses happen in the NFL. How the Broncos respond to the Bengals will define their season.