FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There will soon come a time for the Broncos to fully reflect on the 2011 season.
A time when they can look back on their AFC West title, bringing the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
A time when they can appreciate the hard work and devotion it took to turn a 1-4 start into a spot in the divisional round.
Those thoughts were briefly revealed in the Denver locker room late Saturday night at Gillette Stadium as the players packed their bags.
But a season-ending, 45-10 loss to the New England Patriots was at the forefront.
"The question going around is trying to reflect and look back on the season and it's hard to do that right now," tight end Daniel Fells said. "Looking at it from where we started to where we ended - we did take some strides. But, we're all competitors and we knew what we had here. We expected a lot more out of us."
"There are a lot of things that we're proud of," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "It's hard to see them all right now though."
Cornerback Champ Bailey acknowledged the growth the Broncos had shown after last year's disappointing 4-12 campaign. But that progress can't erase the pain that comes with a playoff exit.
"Obviously we're going home right now," Bailey said. "Anytime you have to wait another year to get a chance at the Super Bowl, it's disappointing."
The Broncos' season is over, but Head Coach John Fox insists the work has only just begun.
2011 was a step in the right direction as Fox and his staff work to build a championship contender.
"We are a work in progress," Fox said. "We've got a lot of work to do. That hasn't changed for some time."
"We have a lot of work to do," he said. "If we want to be elite, you have to play like it when you play teams like this. Especially when it's win or go home."
The memories of this season will drive this team as it heads into the offseason.
The run of come-from-behind wins serve as a reminder of what this team is capable of. The dramatic Wild Card victory over the defending AFC-Champion Pittsburgh Steelers demonstrated this team's ability to compete with the league's best.
That success will motivate.
So will the failures.
As the final minutes of the Broncos' season ticked away Saturday night, Tebow stood on the sideline with Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterbacks coach Adam Gase.
The defeat provided another teaching moment, an opportunity for the two coaches to lend some advice to a young quarterback hoping to become a perennial postseason participant.
"Just take it all in, learn from it and understand all these things that are going on," Tebow said, recalling the advice he received from McCoy and Gase, "so when we have an opportunity to get back here, we can handle it differently."