Rahim Moore made a boneheaded play. The officiating wasn't always perfect. Peyton Manning wasn't "clutch" and John Fox coached not to lose.
There are so many things about the Denver Broncos' performance on Saturday evening that fans and commentators can point to as the reason that they got beaten that not one of them really matters. That's the point of analysis, though, isn't it? We seek a solution - one correctable thing that we can make sure never happens again. Blame is, in a sense, a security blanket. It allows us to say "if not for this" and "if not for that" and keeps up have having to admit that the Baltimore Ravens just plain came into Denver and beat the Broncos.
That's the bottom line. They were better. Let me say that again. The Baltimore Ravens were better than the Denver Broncos.
Joe Flacco was better than Peyton Manning. Dennis Pitta was better than Jacob Tamme. Ray Rice was better than Ronnie Hillman. Torrey Smith was better than Demaryius Thomas. Ray Lewis was better than Von Miller. John Harbaugh was better than John Fox.
The only Broncos player who stood out as having a superior performance to his Baltimore counterpart was Trindon Holiday, without whom the Broncos would have beat beaten convincingly.
It's not that hard. Just tip your cap to the Ravens. It's not easy, I know. We spent the week leading up to the game scoffing at them. The Broncos had handled them easily just a few weeks ago and that was at their place. We were all certain that victory - and a trip to the Championship game - was a mere 60 minutes away. What we all failed to consider was Baltimore's fortitude and experience in big games. They came to Denver ready to get the job done and they took advantage of their opportunities.
It's time for Broncos Country look ahead to next year. How can the Broncos get better? How can they make sure that the next time they get into this position they are prepared to win? Looking back on Saturday's game is fruitless. As sad as it and as hard as it is to accept, it's in the books. We can't play it again and the Broncos won't be back on our TV sets next weekend.
They will be back. The AFC West will belong to the Broncos again in 2013. There's very little doubt about that. The Raiders will remain awful and the Chiefs and Chargers will be in the process of adjusting to entirely new systems. Denver's window isn't closed - not even close.
Meanwhile, the Ravens still have a chance to go to the Superbowl - a chance they came in and wrestled from the Broncos. The Patriots, who earned themselves an unexpected home game - will host Baltimore in the AFC Championship. I say that we should get behind the Ravens. It won't be easy. We conditioned ourselves to hate them. They're by far the lesser of two evils, however. Perhaps it's their time. Their unlikely victory over Denver could be the fuel that powers them through to another eye-opening victory in another tilt. They're already underdogs by the same margin that Vegas had them being in Denver - 9.5 points.
Can the Ravens do it again? Will they shock the world for a second straight week and earn themselves a trip to the Super Bowl? I hope so. For one thing, you always want your team to have been beaten by the best. I'm sick of the Patriots for another.
It's Monday. We have had a day of mourning and it's time to move on. Part of that process is giving credit where credit is due and wishing our opponent the very best of luck.