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Broncos bummed by loss but expect to win 'for years to come'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For a team that's bringing back its orange uniforms next season, the Denver Broncos were resoundingly blue Sunday.

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While some players were buoyed by their bounce-back season under Tim Tebow, most still were bummed over their 45-10 pummeling Saturday night at the hands of the New England Patriots.

"Everybody wants to say we should pat ourselves on the back, but to heck with that. We lost," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said.

Crashing the playoff party for the first time in six seasons and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round just wasn't enough.

"People think we should walk around here with a smile on our face because we made the playoffs, we won a game. We came up short again," Bailey said. "For me personally, I don't have a lot of time here. I don't know how much longer I'll play. It's one of those things, every year you miss it and you don't win it, and here we go again, we've got to start all over again."

Among the biggest questions facing the Broncos this offseason is if Tebow did enough to stay the starting quarterback and force the front office to look at other needs in the draft and free agency.

Tebow wasn't in the locker room during a one-hour media window Sunday.

Tebow's string of stirring comebacks and his 80-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas to beat the Steelers on the first play of overtime in the wild-card round gave the Broncos hope.

"Everybody doubted us, saying that we were only going to win two or three games," Thomas said. "We won eight games and made it to the playoffs. When we were down 1-4, we still had doubters and we came out and worked everything and got better as we went."

Linebacker Joe Mays said the culture of losing stopped when John Fox replaced Josh McDaniels as coach.

"He just said, 'We're going to be a good football team this year, and we're going to turn some heads and right some wrongs. We're going to show that we can go out there and play football with the best of them,' " Mays recounted. "And I think that we did a good job of that. We had our ups and downs, but overall, I think we're going to be a good football team for years to come."

Notes:Broncos WR Eric Decker said the hit from Steelers LB James Harrison that left him with a sprained left knee in the wild-card round was legal: "I think it was unfortunate now with the new rules, guys are scared to hit high, especially Harrison, being fined so much. He had to go low," Decker said. "It stinks. I'd rather get hit high, to be honest with you, because as a receiver, my legs are my investment. But at the same time, I'm not upset or mad at what he did." ... Bailey, for one, expects SS Brian Dawkins to recover from a neck injury and return for a 17th season "just because I know he doesn't want to end like this." ... Rookie LB Von Miller said he would have the pins removed from his surgically repaired right thumb this week and expects to be healed in time to participate in the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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