ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – On Monday, Head Coach John Fox and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway officially concluded the 2012 season with a press conference with Denver media.
Much of the conversation pertained to the way the Broncos' promising 13-3 season ended Saturday against Baltimore. The team was upset in double overtime by the Ravens, bringing the year to a quick and unexpected conclusion. The loss was a memorable back-and-forth affair that needed more than 15 minutes after regulation to be decided. Ending the season in such dramatic fashion was an undeniably painful experience for the Broncos. But Fox hopes and expects that pain to have positive long-term consequences.
"People are just different," Fox said. "They are all competitors. There are a lot of good guys in our locker room. As I told our team, I feel for them. They put a lot into this. They do feel that sting and that pain. I think they'll be better for it."
With the outcome just 48 hours old, Saturday is the last thing the players and coaches want on their minds at the moment. But by the time preparations for next year begin, Elway expects the memory to provide valuable motivation.
"It adds incentive to next year," Elway said, noting that the team is still hurting. "By the time we get into training camp, we'll be looking at this as something we can learn from, and hopefully use that as a battle cry going into next year."
The Broncos will enter next year fresh off one of the best regular seasons of any team in the NFL – Denver tied with Atlanta for the best regular-season record in the league in 2012. There will be no shortage of positives the Broncos will carry into 2013.
"If you look at the regular season, we're 13-3, we won 11 games in a row — it was successful, (but) it's disappointing," Elway said. "If you look at where we were two years ago and where we are now, we're making strides that we want to make. We know that we have to make some more, but there's no question that it was a very good season for us. We won a lot of football games, the fans were great, the excitement is back, the connection is back, so it's important for us to make the next step."
In addition to the talent and confidence that produced an 11-game winning streak, the players will also have a burning desire to make up for a disappointing finish.
"Our players will heal in time because time does heal," Fox said. "They'll come back with a fire in their belly of wanting to get back like most good teams do. We've got a good team, as people and players. We'll get an opportunity to build on that, along with experience. We'll head into year three of this process and hopefully make as good a jump as we did from last year to this year."
Before the players know it, their attention will have to turn to the task of defending their AFC West Championship. The opportunity to get back to work will put the undesirable ending against Baltimore in the rear-view mirror in a hurry.
"Hopefully, this offseason will make it better," Elway said. "We'll take it a step at a time."