ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The thing that sticks with them about the game is not the loss. It is not the 45 points that the Patriots scored, or the fact the game ended their 2011 season. The thing that still bothers the Broncos should have been easier to control.
“It was pretty obvious we didn’t put our best effort in [that] game,” cornerback Champ Bailey said of the Patriots’ 45-10 win in the divisional playoff game Jan. 14. “It’s real disappointing to get that far and not put forth 100 percent. It is what it is. It’s in the past.”
Obviously, this Broncos team is not that team. This team has Peyton Manning. That team had Tim Tebow. And part of the change of quarterbacks has affected a change in effort level, spurred on by one of the hardest-working players in football.
“It’s really not the loss that disappointed, just the effort,” Bailey said. “How they outplayed us. Because they weren’t that much better than us that they could beat us like that. That’s what was really disappointing.”
It left a “sour taste in our mouths,” said wide receiver Eric Decker. Linebacker Von Miller went with “bitter taste.”
Jack Del Rio, who came on as defensive coordinator after the season, said, “It can haunt you if you let it. But the way I look at it, it’s a new year, a new beginning. You certainly feel the sting of being beaten like that, but you can’t carry much more than that, with the motivation of going in there and making sure you put your best product out there on the football field.”
In the game, the Patriots got out to a 14-0 lead in the first 8:18, before extending that to 35-7 at halftime. The Broncos gained only 252 yards while allowing the Patriots 509. The Patriots seemed to be able to do anything they wanted, the Broncos nothing.
It was a debacle.
“I think we all know what happened,” Decker said. “It’s in the back of our mind and we understand that it was somewhat of an embarrassment as far as our performance and what we did.”
The Broncos vow that it will be different this time around. They believe they have made the necessary changes so that effort will not be an issue when they arrive at Gillette Stadium to play on Sunday.
“They outplayed us last year,” running back Willis McGahee said. “At the end of the day, they outplayed us. They played better than us. They wanted it more. It was just the end of that story, but hopefully it’s a different era this weekend.”
. . .
Bailey had high praise for former teammate Brandon Lloyd on Thursday. Bailey, who used to go against Lloyd in practice, called him “probably the most gifted athlete in the game. Nobody has better ball control than this guy, and better hands. He’s about as good as they come athletically.” Though as for Lloyd’s ability to go up against Bailey, Broncos coach John Fox said, “I like Champ Bailey’s chances against everybody.” . . . There is a mystery for the Gronkowski brothers this week. As fullback Chris said, “I keep asking [our parents] who they’re cheering for and they won’t tell me. So we’re going to have to see on game day what jersey they’re wearing.” . . . All five players listed on the Denver injury report for the week — Nate Irving (concussion), Chris Kuper (forearm), Chris Harris (ankle), Tracy Porter (shoulder), and Matt Willis (hamstring) — participated in practice Thursday and Friday and were all listed as probable for Sunday’s game. Kuper will be a game-time decision . . . The Broncos will be without linebacker D.J. Williams until Nov. 12 after the NFL added three games to his suspension, the Associated Press reported. Williams was punished for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy following his conviction in August of driving while ability impaired. He was already serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s banned-substances policy after the NFL said he supplied a ‘‘non-human’’ urine sample during a drug test.