ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **In rehashing where things went awry for the Broncos in the team's 39-33 loss in Indianapolis on Sunday night, tight end Julius Thomas circled one glaring statistic: the three turnovers and the safety that the Broncos conceded to the Colts.
"I think the Colts found what every other team has been able to find so far this year – we have too many turnovers," Thomas said. "We talk about it all the time. We're middle of the pack in the league when it comes to turnover margin and that's not what a winning team – we can't have that. We've been able to continue to survive through turnovers and you play a good team and you can't get that."
Head Coach John Fox was just as frank in his assessment.
"Anytime you turn the ball over (three) times, especially on the road, it's going to be tough," Fox said.
Two of the team's three turnovers – Trindon Holliday's fumble on a punt return in the first quarter and Peyton Manning's fourth-quarter interception, which happened when Manning was hit as he released a pass and Colts linebacker Pat Angerer plucked the wayward football out of the air – led directly to a Colts touchdown and field goal.
Add in a second quarter strip-sack of Manning by Colts linebacker Robert Mathis – which caused the football to careen through the end zone and out-of-bounds for a safety – and running back Ronnie Hillman's fumble near the Indianapolis goal line with 3:03 to play, and Denver's miscues with the football ultimately resulted in a significant point swing.
"We didn't play very smart and play the way we needed to play to win the game," wide receiver Wes Welker said. "We talk about protecting the ball and we have to go out there and do it."
Manning circled Mathis' strip-sack, which brought the Colts to within 14-12 and initiated a 23-point scoring run for Indianapolis, as a pivotal moment in the game.
"That was a big play. Certainly any time you give them a safety or give them the ball again, potentially a nine-point swing," Manning said. "That was a great play by (Mathis). That one was, among others, a couple of plays where we gave them some points and some field position. Ultimately that was just too tough to overcome."
Despite the turnovers, the Broncos still had opportunities to win the game in the fourth quarter. However, tight end Jacob Tamme noted that there was little comfort in simply hanging close, as Denver's inability to capitalize down the stretch left the game's lasting impression.
"That's a good thing, but it's also a bad thing because you can't do all those things," tight end Jacob Tamme. "It's nice to know we still had a chance to win the game and we fought our tails off, but we can't make so many dumb mistakes and we have to capitalize on some more opportunities."
Ultimately, the miscues represented a learning experience that Welker noted the Broncos will hope to correct and grow from.
"We have to take care of the football we have to play smart football and be on top of everything and it's a learning experience," Welker said. "We need guys to grow up and play the way we need to and I have no doubt we're going to do that."
Tamme Returns to Indianapolis
Sunday was billed as a night of homecomings, and Tamme made his own return to the place where he spent his first four NFL seasons, turning in a productive evening on the field.
Tamme recorded his first catch of the season – a 7-yard reception from Manning on third down early in the second quarter that kept a drive alive and led to Thomas' 12-yard touchdown catch – and the tight end also logged a pair of special teams tackles.
After the game, Tamme noted that some emotions accompanied returning to Indianapolis, although coming up just short on the scoreboard was ultimately what stuck with him.
"I think a little bit," Tamme said. "When you spend time somewhere – it was definitely different and like I said, we fought hard. That's what's tough about it. When you fight hard like that and come up short. We just have to play better."
In order to accomplish that, Tamme pointed to a number of areas for improvement.
"There are all sorts of little things we can work on just like every team does," Tamme said. "We have to find ways to get better, protect the ball better – speaking for what I do, on offense we have to protect the ball better. On special teams we have to find ways to make some more big plays because we're capable of that. Guys were playing hard and playing their tails off – we just didn't quite make it."
Welker Sure-Handed Down the Stretch
One key element to the Broncos' comeback effort was Welker's sure-handed play down the stretch.
Welker hauled in four catches in the fourth quarter, including a critical 2-yard reception on fourth-and-1 and a dazzling, leaping 24-yard catch on third-and-16 later in the game – a gritty performance that Welker said was simply part of playing until the scoreboard read 0:00. "That's football," Welker said. "You just keep on fighting and you keep on playing and try to make good things happen. Obviously you want to catch balls throughout the game but that's football. You just have to keep fighting and keep playing and do your best to help the team win."
And while Welker – who finished with seven catches for 96 yards, second to only teammate Eric Decker's eight catches for 150 yards – noted that the Broncos' miscues were disappointing, he also pointed out that the team's refusal to go quietly into the night was a positive.
"I mean, that's one thing you have to have – a resilient bunch," Welker said. "We do have some resilient guys that are going out there to fight the whole game. That's what I love about this football team. It was good to see that we're going to do that and we just can't make the mistakes that we made."