FOXBOROUGH, Mass. --** Statistically, the Broncos and Patriots had very similar games. In fact, Denver outgained New England, 472-398.
The Broncos had two 100-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders while Peyton Manning threw for over 400 yards.
But the Broncos couldn't get the numbers where it counts: on the scoreboard.
Check out the best snapshots captured from Sunday's game between the Broncos and Patriots.
"The expectation for this team is, of course, to go all the way and win it all," Sanders said. "Tonight we weren't at our best. If want to get to where we need to get, which is the Super Bowl, we've got to get better and we [have to] bounce back. I think we've got a great nucleus of guys in this locker room that are willing and capable of doing that."
Sanders couldn't pinpoint exactly why the team that took the field Sunday looked so different from the one that dominated its past two opponents. But in the locker room after the game, he and a few of his teammates noted that they will dissect the film on Monday and discuss how they can improve upon their performance.
While the offensive stat lines were similar, special teams and turnovers hurt the Broncos -- primarily in the second quarter, when the Patriots accumulated 24 points. Manning's pass intended for Thomas was picked off by Rob Ninkovich and returned to the Broncos' 34-yard line. The Patriots capitalized on the turnover and Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for a touchdown.
The Broncos' next punt was returned by Edelman for an 84-yard touchdown.
In the third quarter, with the Broncos down 30-14, Manning was picked off by Brandon Browner. The following play, Brandon LaFell scored on a 10-yard touchdown reception, drastically decreasing the Broncos' chances of a comeback.
While the hostile environment and temperatures in the 30s certainly didn't help the offense make its way down the field, Sanders said this loss cannot be attributed to the atmosphere at Gillette Stadium.
"I think it's the team," Sanders said. "We faced a great team tonight and they executed on all cylinders. Defensively they played well, offensively and special teams- they had a punt return for a touchdown so the Patriots were clicking like that and we're not clicking. The results are what you're going to get out there and it shows."
In addition to allowing turnovers at inopportune times, the Broncos had a season-low third down efficiency (27 percent).
While Sanders posted his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, the Broncos' running game couldn't maintain the momentum it held in its previous games. The Broncos averaged over 130 yards on the ground in its previous three games, but on Sunday could only accumulate 43.
Ronnie Hillman said the Patriots did a good job of filling the gaps and preventing the Broncos' run game from taking off. He said the Patriots were exactly what the Broncos had expected.
"You always know what you're going to get from them," Hillman said. "They have a great coach and they're coached well so we knew we had to be on our A game and we didn't bring it tonight."
After losing to the Seahawks in Week 3, the Broncos bounced back to win four consecutive games over formidable opponents. Wes Welker said rallying after a loss is a testament to a team's character, and that this team has that resolve.
"We'll see what we're made of," Welker said of the team's ability to bounce back after a loss." We have a good team and we'll come back from this."
While heading back to Denver with a loss is disappointing, the Broncos know it's early. And, just like last season, there is a good chance these two AFC rivals will see each other again.
"We hope," Sanders said when asked if he wants to face the Patriots again. "We still have a lot of football to be played.
"We're just going to move on to the next opponent after tomorrow."