DENVER -- From 2-3 after Week 5 to 13-3 at season's end, the Broncos' mentality has never wavered. That could be why the results haven't, either.
"I knew every week we just had to keep going out there and busting our butt(s)," cornerback Champ Bailey said after Sunday's 38-3 victory in the regular-season finale. "That's really what it boiled down to. You had to take it week-by-week. Now we look up, and here we are, 13-3. That's really just our focus throughout the season that got us to this point."
The players look back to Week 5 - the last time Denver lost a game - as a defining point of the season. They had to either come together or fall behind in the division. The team has come a long way since that moment, stringing together the second-longest winning streak in team history and sweeping the AFC West for the first time since 1998.
October feels like a long time ago, but the Broncos haven't forgotten what they learned before the win streak began.
"We were facing adversity, dropping below .500 and giving San Diego the lead in the division," defensive end Elvis Dumervil recalled. "We were able to rally back. It was an overall team effort. Offense made plays, defense made plays, guys stepped up. That may not be the last time that we face adversity, so it was good that we got that experience in. We've been there. I'm sure maybe it will happen again, and we have to make sure we rally the same way we did."
Improving every week has been the mantra in the Broncos locker room throughout the season, and the players and coaches have stuck to it. Even after seven double-digit wins during the 11-game streak, they have maintained the mentality that there are elements of the team that must be improved.
When the squad was pieced together in training camp, it became clear it wasn't short on talent. But if the players had not come together, they wouldn't be sitting with a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
"I think even when we put the team together, I knew we could do special things," Bailey said. "It's just all about how guys grow together, how the chemistry comes together. And I think it's coming together. I really don't think we're all the way there yet. I feel like we have a lot more room to improve. I think if everybody in this locker room believes that, the sky's the limit for us."
The improvements have led to wins, and the wins have led to trust. That, along with chemistry and an overwhelming sense of togetherness, has fueled the Broncos to a historic season.
"When things get tough, we don't yell at each other," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "We just put our head down and go."