FOXBOROUGH, Mass. --After Sunday's 43-21 loss to the Patriots, no Bronco was harder on himself than Peyton Manning.
"I've got to play better," Manning said. "It's pretty plain and simple. [When] the quarterback stinks, usually you're not going to win many games."
"I don't usually stink, but I stunk today."
Manning ultimately threw for 438 yards, the fifth highest single-game total of his career, but it took 57 attempts to get there, two short of his career-high for one game. And despite moving the ball 472 yards (to the Patriots 398), Denver's offense failed to execute in critical moments, squandering several promising drives with momentum-shifting miscues.
The Broncos entered the second quarter with a 7-3 lead, but after a Patriots field goal, the game pivoted on a turnover that Manning called a "critical play." Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich dropped into coverage and stepped in front of a Manning pass that was intended for Demaryius Thomas, with his return setting up the Patriots at the Broncos' 34-yard line. Four plays later, the Patriots took a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Just a bad decision, certainly at a bad time," Manning said of the interception. "Certainly a play I'd like to have back. A really bad decision by me."
"I thought that definitely gave them a lot of momentum and for whatever reason, we didn't recover as well as we would have liked."
Check out the best snapshots captured from Sunday's game between the Broncos and Patriots.
After a holding penalty helped stall the Broncos' offense on the ensuing possession, a bizzare special teams play occurred, with Britton Colquitt fumbling the snap and somehow still getting the punt away, only for Julian Edelman to weave his way through the punt coverage team for an 84-yard return touchdown. The score capped a 17-point sequence in a span of 4:09 to put the Broncos in a 20-7 hole.
Manning and Co. were able to march back down the field several times in the remainder of the game as they looked to close the gap, but key mistakes at key moments proved costly and turned plenty of hard work into empty yards. Manning noted after the game that Bill Belichick's defense didn't do anything to catch him off guard, but rather that the Broncos' offense failed to take advantage of opportunities.
"You know we had some chances," Manning said. "We were moving the ball, got down there a decent amount. To come up with a missed field goal, fourth-down stop and then second half we got down there a decent amount too and came away with no points."
The Broncos' first possession following the punt return went 52 yards in nine plays before a 41-yard field goal attempt from Brandon McManus clanked off the right upright. After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, Denver used eight plays to move the ball to the Patriots' 34 before facing a fourth-and-6. John Fox kept the offense on the field to try to convert, but a stunt from the Patriots' three-man rush reached Manning for a sack, again ending a promising drive.
"[I'm] disappointed that we didn't get that because when the head coach says 'Go for it,' he's putting confidence in you and I thought we let him down," Manning said of the play.
The second half produced more of the same for Denver, despite the fact that the offense opened with two touchdowns on its first three drives. The Broncos' other five second-half series produced no points despite the fact that none ended in punts.
Sandwiched between two long touchdown drives was a turnover that led to a quick touchdown for New England, after a pass bounced off Wes Welker's chest and was collected by Brandon Browner. Brandon Lafell caught a 10-yard touchdown pass on the following play to extend the Patriots' lead to 23. Later, three consecutive fourth-quarter possessions for the Broncos' offense moved the ball a combined 164 yards before stalling on fourth-down each time.
Add it all up, and it seemed that the level of polish the Broncos have shown over the last several weeks was absent in the most critical of moments.
"We have been doing it pretty well every week," Manning said of the team's execution over the past several games. "...But you've got to do it every week. I've got to do it every week.''
"(The Patriots) made some plays and did a number of things good on their side of the execution part of it. [They] probably executed better than we did overall. But I still think that I need to play better. That can usually overcome some things and I didn't do that today."
The focus now turns to the second of three consecutive road games for the Broncos, with Manning and Co. heading to Oakland to take on the Raiders, who despite failing to pick up a win thus far have played tight games at home against San Diego and on the road with the Seahawks and Patriots. Manning emphasized that the game will be another tough test away from home.
"We've got to be better on the road," he said. "What are we 1-2 on the road? And we probably didn't play our best out there in New York, so we've got to play better on the road. Division games are always tough and there's great familiarity between us and the Raiders. So we've got to kind of regroup."
"It's something we have done in the past. We have bounced back and played better and it kind of starts on the practice field, so that's what we expect to do: Go practice well and hopefully play better next week."