"We've got to go back and eat some of that humble pie, re-evaluate things and get better from that."
* -- Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware*
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Humble pie tastes bitter, like the wind that blows from the north through the open end of Gillette Stadium. And for seasoning, there's some ground-up rubber granules, the kind that get stuck in your mouth after you're pushed face-first into a 21st-century artificial turf field.
The first instinct is to spit it all out. But that might prevent it from providing any kind of nutritional benefit to a team still trying to build its strength for the stretch run and beyond.
Distasteful as it may be, the Broncos need to chew on Sunday's 43-21 loss for a while, and swallow it. It might take a while for the team to wash away the taste of a defeat like this. It's doubtful that even a win, or two, or three, or more will cleanse their palates.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Ask two of the last three world champions -- the 2011 Giants and the 2012 Ravens. Both felt the same sort of misery the Broncos experience today, losing by 20 or more points at least once. Another recent champion, the 2010 Packers, was chastened by six regular-season losses and a pair of two-game losing streaks.
These are examples of how to rebuild from moments like the one in front of the Broncos now.
"Sometimes you need that gut check to make sure you stay on track and how you need to be playing," Ware said. "At the end of the day, you have to take it as that, and take it as a loss."
Blowout defeats like Sunday's can forge champions. And this is a loss unlike any other for the Broncos in the regular season since Peyton Manning's arrival. The 22-point loss matches the margin of defeat for the Broncos' previous four losses combined, none of which exceeded seven points.
"It was definitely embarrassing," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Check out the best snapshots captured from Sunday's game between the Broncos and Patriots.
Close losses can help, but they can also deceive. They can make you believe that you're one play, one break, one moment away. No such rationalization can be extracted from a bitter Sunday in Foxborough.
"We didn't play a bad game, but we know that there's another level that we have to get to to win games like this," said Ware. "Guys were in place to make plays, but you have to make those plays in key situations -- especially on third down, getting off the field."
Added cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "It really wasn't anything they did. We killed ourselves on a lot of things. Other than that (Rob Gronkowski) one-handed play, that's really the only play they really physically beat us.
"But a lot of the time today, we beat ourselves."
If the Broncos forget the taste, they need only consult the standings, which place the Patriots a half-game in front of the Broncos, with control of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Or they can glance at the Broncos' road record, which is 1-2 -- with the solitary win against the now-1-7 New York Jets, a game undecided until the last minute. Five of the next seven games are away from Denver. It is a problem they must fix -- fast -- or they will face more servings of humble pie, which will only taste worse than Sunday's.
"We've got to be better on the road," said Manning. "And we probably didn't play our best out there in New York, so we've got to play better on the road."
And whether the Broncos can do that will determine whether humble pie is a one-time dish, never to be served again this season, or if they'll need another bite to get where they want to go.