DENVER — **First the rain fell, and shortly afterward, so too did the Broncos.
In a home loss to the Colts that ended the Broncos' season with the final minutes playing out in a light drizzle, "disappointing" was the descriptor that players said most often in reflecting on the game and the season-ending weight of the match.
The Broncos had gotten off to a quick start with a forced three-and-out, and followed it up offensively with a touchdown, but the Colts took control for much of the rest of the game, scoring 24 points to the Broncos' six after that initial touchdown drive.
"The first drive we went down and scored and after that we couldn't get on the same page," Demaryius Thomas said. "I can say as an offense, we didn't play our best ball tonight."
And ultimately, it was just that — the Colts made more plays and played a better game when all was said and done. "We didn't make our plays and they made more plays than we did, which is why they won the game," Brandon Marshall said.
The heft of this loss as a season-ending one made it all the more disappointing for the players, some of who had come back from injuries in time to return to the field.
"I know we had goals, obviously. We fell short of those goals," Head Coach John Fox said. "That locker room is very disappointed. You know, when you're a staff member, coach or player — I think the guys had set theirs higher than the disappointment in the loss today. I know our fans are disappointed. It was a very disappointed locker room, as you'd expect."
Check out photos from the second half of Sunday's game.
"All season, all offseason, everything, we had one thing on our mind: Super Bowl," Marshall added. "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."
Coming up short with lofty goals is a tough pill to swallow, and an especially frustrating one for Chris Harris Jr., who said their opportunities slipped out of their grasp.
"We didn't come out to play and you can't let these opportunities go away," Harris said. "They have too good of an enough team to let these opportunities go away like that, and that's what's so frustrating."
For some, the frustrations were not so much in the loss itself as much as that they didn't play to their full potential.
"If we would have played Bronco football, maybe the outcome would have been different," Marshall said. "But it is what it is. We lost the game. We didn't play how we should have played, how we needed to play to win the game, which is why we lost."
To their credit, the Colts played a terrific game on offense and defense, keeping the Broncos' offense out of rhythm and extending drives when they needed to, especially behind the leadership and talent of Andrew Luck in the pocket.
"It was just tough to do anything today," C.J. Anderson said. "...and when you don't make enough plays in the playoffs, you've got to pay attention to little details, and if you don't make enough plays, you tend to lose games and that's what happened tonight."
And whether it was a third-down long-yardage conversion from Luck and Co. or third-down stop to halt the Broncos, the Colts got the plays they needed for a tough-fought road playoff victory to continue to the AFC Championship.
"They have a great team over there. We did some stuff today—not being able to get off the field on third downs, not stopping them, not scoring points—just all the stuff that we did today was just a horrible combination, a horrible formula," Miller said. "And this is what you get for the results."
With the season officially at its end for the Broncos and the focus beginning to shift toward the future and how to improve upon this season, in the words of Miller, it will just be time to get 'back to the lab' to refine their game and move forward.
Check out photos of the Broncos' AFC divisional playoff game.