DENVER -- **Less than 40 minutes after Sunday's season-ending 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, team equipment staffers removed nameplates from above the stalls in the locker room. Just under 60 minutes after the defeat, most of the lights above Sports Authority Field at Mile High turned off.
The season, and "Super Bowl or bust" aspirations loftier than Denver's mile-high altitude, crashed to the earth with a thud that felt like an earthquake.
The defeat was comprehensive and decisive. Indianapolis was the better team. And over the course of 19 weeks, the Colts turned a 31-24 season-opening loss into a day in which they dominated at the line of scrimmage, offense and defense, which reflected on the statistical sheet and the scoreboard.
"They played better than us today," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
There really is no doubt in a game decided by two scores, and one in which the Colts had a 364-231 advantage in total yards and a 1.3-yard edge in yards per play until a final, game-ending drive.
"Truth be told, I thought Indianapolis played better than we did. That's just the reality of the game," Fox said, adding that he took "all" off the responsibility for the loss.
"I'm a head coach; the buck stops here," Fox said. "That's just the reality of what we do."
But it was others who went on the record declaring the season as "Super Bowl or bust."
None did so more prominently than team captain Terrance Knighton. He had his reasons -- well-considered ones -- for doing so. And he could rationalize why the season was not a failure.
"It's not a failure because I feel like we came together as a team and overcame a lot of things, especially on the defensive side, with injuries, and such," he said.
But others disagreed.
"Yeah, it's a failure, definitely," Harris said.
"It does," added linebacker Brandon Marshall when asked if the season felt like a failure, "because all season, all offseason, everything, we had one thing on our mind: Super Bowl. Super Bowl. But we came up short, which is why everybody's disappointed.
"We had a 12-4 season, second seed, first-round bye, which is all great and everything, but when you have that kind of goal in mind, it's not enough."
Not even close.
"The first round of the playoffs turned into the last game of the season. That's as bad as it gets," said a succinct Aqib Talib.
And there was really no more to say after a season that ended three weeks shy of when the Broncos expected.
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Check out photos from the second half of Sunday's game.