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'No moral victories'

Posted Sep 22, 2014

There may be some silver linings to the loss in Seattle, but some Broncos didn't want to hear about them.

SEATTLE -- With his voice at its usual uptempo pace, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. recounted the circumstances that led to the Broncos' 26-20 loss to the Seahawks here Sunday: the team's tactics, its early deficit, a stirring comeback, and, finally, the overtime letdown.

In the midst of describing how Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson seized control of the game in overtime -- which Harris attributed to "some scheme stuff at the end that we haven't seen" -- he dropped two key words into his synopsis:

"Next time."

The NFL's scheduling rotation says that the Seahawks and Broncos will not meet again until 2018. Harris and the Broncos are thinking of something a bit sooner: in Glendale, Ariz., 19 weeks from now.

"Oh, man. I'd love to play them again," Harris said. "We'll see them again, if they make it to the final game, because I believe that we're the best team.

"I feel like we'll see them again."

If the defending world champions are still the standard by which every team will be measured in 2014, the Broncos acquitted themselves well as a member of the league's elite class.

But the Broncos have to cross the Himalayas of schedules before getting there: four of their next five games are against the Cardinals, 49ers, Chargers and Patriots, and the other is against the Jets and their feisty defense.

That slate offers no relief. And while the Broncos will scrutinize Sunday's game tape through rational eyes and understand that a 60-minute deadlock against the Seahawks is eons away from the Super Bowl rout, they will also lament an opportunity lost.

"There are no moral victories," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "We want to win the game. It's simple."

Nevertheless, Sunday's game was one from which the Broncos will extract some positives: the second-half dominance of the defense, 17 fourth-quarter points, a game-tying, 80-yard sprint with no timeouts in the final minute of regulation, resilience and the ability to keep woes from snowballing as they did in Super Bowl XLVIII.

"We lost, but I can say I think today we became a better team," said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. "We were down, the offense wasn't able to get some stuff going in the first half and our defense came up with some plays. They scored, they got us the ball back, we were able to score.

"I think we came closer because I don't know if we would have been able to do that last year. I can say we got better."

And they improved under demanding circumstances -- a "heavyweight fight" that lived up to the pre-match hype.

"It was something that (Head) Coach (John) Fox talked about the night before, that it's going to be a heavyweight fight, and somebody's going to have to take the first punch, but we're going to have to get up swinging," Knighton said.

"That's what the message was at halftime, actually -- that they were up on us and they probably thought in our locker room that we were going to give up, and there'd be a repeat performance, but we came out swinging, and we swung enough to get an extra quarter to play."

But bouts like this exact an emotional and physical toll. Even with a focus on the positives, a loss like this could gnaw at the Broncos. Next week's bye comes at an opportune time; it affords the time to put Week 3 in its proper context: vital, but only as a measuring stick.

The Broncos can continue to use 43-8 as motivation. But they can use 20-all after regulation as a reminder that yes, they can hang with the Seahawks -- and but for some self-inflicted wounds like two turnovers, they could have beaten them.

"It's the perfect week for a bye week to get our minds right and come back and get this thing rolling down the stretch," said Knighton.

How well the Broncos do that will determine if they can get what they crave most: another chance at the Seahawks.