Broncos' loss opens door in AFC playoff race

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm •  Published: December 13, 2013

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — John Fox doesn't see a defense that's diving or a sky that's falling.

A day after the Broncos lost their aura of indestructibility and handed New England a golden chance to steer the road to the Super Bowl away from the Rocky Mountains, Denver's coach said the stunning 27-20 loss to San Diego doesn't substantially change the challenge facing his team.

"You can go back and do research; I think there has been a lot of successful teams that have had losses late in the season," Fox said Friday. "Where we'll fit on that totem pole, I have no idea yet. We obviously have work to do to improve. I know that. I agree that every loss is a wakeup call."

Last year's Super Bowl champion, the Baltimore Ravens, in fact, went 1-4 in December.

"They got hot at the right time," safety David Bruton said. "You just get hot at the right time. Yeah, it stinks that we lost the game, but we're definitely just trying to move forward and learn from it. We just finished watching film and just move on to the next one. You learn from adversity. You learn from your mistakes.

"You want to be hot in December, but we lost early in December and we can learn from that and push forward and become hot at the end of December and throughout January and February."

That would mean a trip to the Super Bowl, which the Broncos are still talking about despite their latest misstep that might have cost them the smoothest path to the title game.

The Broncos (11-3) have dealt with deficiencies on defense all season, but they've all been camouflaged by a high-powered offense led by Peyton Manning, the prohibitive favorite to win his fifth MVP award.

This time, Manning had an off night, failing to guide the Broncos to a single first down in the second quarter as the Chargers (7-7) overcame an early 10-3 deficit to take control.

"We had those three three-and-outs in a row and ... it was damaging enough to cost us the lead," Manning said after the game. "And we were never able to recover from that."

The Chargers played keep-away from Manning, controlling the clock with drives that ate up yards and time. Ryan Matthews (127 yards on 29 carries) became the first running back to top 100 yards on Denver all season, and the Chargers gained 103 yards on first down.

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