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'Look at everything we've done so far': Broncos maintain belief as playoff hopes hinge on final three-game slate

DETROIT — D.J. Jones knows the Broncos' reality is now quite simple.

Following a 42-17 loss to the Lions on what Head Coach Sean Payton called a "frustrating night," Denver's path to the team's first postseason berth since 2015 is clearly defined — and it doesn't leave much margin for error.

"How do I look at it?" Jones said of the postseason race. "We've got to win out."

In the locker room following Denver's first double-digit loss since Week 6, several Broncos spoke about the need to clean up their mistakes and improve. But there was also a noticeable resolve and belief from the players that they can respond in the coming weeks.

"The whole season," said wide receiver Courtland Sutton when asked why he has confidence. "Look at everything we've done so far. This team has rallied and fought back throughout the entire season. I don't know why anything would change after this game."

As tackle Garett Bolles explained, the Broncos' performance over the last two months has shown a consistent ability to play high-level football — and a loss in Detroit does not diminish that.

"There's no lost faith in this locker room," Bolles said. "We're 6-2 in the last eight weeks. … You can laugh at us all you want, but we're 6-2, we're playing some of the best football in the NFL. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some, and that's just the nature of the NFL."

The importance of stacking wins over the final weeks of the season, though, is quite clear. The Broncos' playoff chances sit at 32 percent entering Sunday's games, according to the New York Times' playoff simulator. With three wins down the stretch, the Broncos' playoff odds would jump to 93 percent, including a 79 percent chance at earning a wild-card spot. With an additional loss this year — which would put Denver at 9-8 on the season — the Broncos' playoff chances would hover around 20 percent and leave Denver hoping for a slew of results around the league.

"It's playoff football from here on out," Bolles said, "and we've got to get the job done"

That "playoff" slate begins Sunday night against New England, and the Broncos must quickly move forward from the loss to the Lions.

"I think our focus is obviously learning from this film, but the most important thing is going back home, in front of our fans, and playing a New England Patriots team that we've got to beat," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "They'll be ready to play. We'll be ready to play. I think the most important thing we can do is learn from [Saturday's loss]. It's been a journey all season, right? We started behind the eight ball a bit. We've done well over the past several games, and unfortunately it didn't go our way tonight. But we're going to respond the right way. That's what we're going to do."

And while inside linebacker Alex Singleton said he doesn't know if it's easy to move past a tough loss to Detroit, the Broncos simply don't have an another option.

"You have to," Singleton said. "We're going to watch it [and] move on. We've got to get ready for New England. Period."

In the locker room following the loss, the need to move forward from defeat was among Head Coach Sean Payton's messages to his team.

"Look, this is a tough league," Payton said. "I said this to the players afterwards: You're going to play in these games once in a while. It's difficult to swallow. Certainly as coaches, it starts with us. We've got to be better. But man, we've got to be able to shake it pretty soon here and then get ready to play New England."

A win over the Patriots would be just the next step toward completing a turnaround from 1-5 to playoff team, but it's now paramount to Denver's postseason hopes. And amid the disappointment of a loss to Detroit, that hope certainly remained in the Broncos' locker room.

"Everyone can say whatever they want," Bolles said. "We know what we have. We know what we're going to do."

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