- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The demolition of the Broncos' grand plan means that although Broncos may have come a long way since their 4-12 finish in 2010 with John Elway running the show, they still have plenty of ground to cover to get to where owner Pat Bowlen and Elway want the franchise to go. The Broncos did not show what Elway calls the “mentality to win a championship" right from the moment that center Manny Ramirez sailed the first snap past Peyton Manning's head.
Stock watch: Coaches coach and players play, to be sure, but the Broncos were supposed to have an advantage with a veteran head coach in John Fox and some veteran hands like Jack Del Rio, Dave Magazu and Richard Smith on staff. But the Broncos looked out of sorts from the start and showed plenty of bad body language throughout the first half as the game was ripped from their grasp.
More questions: Manning hates the questions, his teammates hate the questions and most people in and around the Broncos hate the questions. But after they quieted the what’s-the-deal-with-the-playoffs talk ever so slightly with wins over the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots in this postseason run, it will be rekindled after the Super Bowl blowout. Manning, who is set to have a physical in the coming weeks, is expected to be back for the 2014 season if the doctors give him the thumbs-up, but this one will sting him and the team for quite some time.
The flip-flop: The narrative for much of the past two weeks had been how the Broncos’ chances for a Super Bowl victory depended on whether their defense could hold up. But in the end, the defense more than held up its end of the bargain, as most everything else around the Broncos unraveled. From the air-mailed snap to open the game to poor pass protection to Demaryius Thomas’ fumble to poor special-teams play, the Broncos' defense was the least of the team’s worries when the game was still in doubt.
What’s next: Elway has always said a team can’t be afraid to ask itself the tough questions, and the Broncos will have plenty to answer. They simply weren’t good enough, not tough enough, not resilient enough to recover when things went badly early Sunday. The Broncos will have to look hard at adding some defensive pop in the coming months, especially because linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. are recovering from ACL injuries.