Picture from Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

I’m bummed, naturally, that the Denver Broncos were bounced by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of this year’s NFL playoffs.  This wasn’t how I envisioned it at all.  Especially not after the Broncos closed out the season with eleven straight victories and finished a-top the American Football Conference.  They were supposed to ride this wave all the way to New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII.  This was their year, or so I thought.  And with Peyton Manning at the helm, coming back from his fourth neck surgery, proving that he is still one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.   It was not supposed to end for them on Saturday night, but it did.  One and done.  So much for the expectations, the Super Bowl dreams.  So much for the number one seed, so much for home field advantage in the playoffs.

The truth of the matter is that the great Peyton Manning will not add to his one Super Bowl title and he is now 3-5 in divisional playoff games and a sub-500 playoff player at 9-11.  In other words, he’s human.  And even though the Bronco loss from Saturday night hurt me as a Bronco fan, I was able to take comfort in the fact that the loss was a result of nothing more than humans being humans.  Which is to say: you don’t win them all.  Mr. Manning is a superstar, no doubt about that, but he’s human.  One that, for as great of a quarterback as he is, has experienced more defeat than triumph in the playoffs.  Sure, it will be a long off-season for him and Broncos fans alike.  So much accomplished in his first year back from a health-related hiatus and no hardware to show for it.  No postseason victory.  Tough.

But the one thing I realized is that loss is experienced by all.  And that everyone can relate to “great” seasons ending abruptly.  Even the machine-like, always prepared, can’t lose, seemingly perfect New England Patriots and their own superstar quarterback, Mr. Tom Brady.  In fact, Mr. Brady’s last two trips to the biggest game of them all, the Super Bowl, have resulted in a loss (to Peyton Manning’s kid brother Eli Manning, no less).  The genius that is Bill Belichick, bested by New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin, twice.  Nobody’s perfect.  Thank God for that.

But what a loss should do, I believe, is compel you to try harder, to try again.  To go back and make adjustments and learn about yourself.  That’s where the true value of a loss can be.

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

Ron Chenoy-USA Today Sports

The very same Baltimore Ravens, who eliminated the Broncos last week, were but a kick away from the Super Bowl last year; and had to live with that painstaking reality all off-season long last year.  And now they have an unbelievable opportunity to avenge that loss this coming Sunday night.  And the great thing is that we can’t look at this Conference Championship Game of Sunday Night and say that the Patriots have the Ravens’ number and therefore can be “penciled” into the Super Bowl in three weeks time.  It was at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens that the mighty Patriots knew what it felt like to be “one-and-done” a few years ago when Baltimore went to New England and annihilated the Pats in Foxborough in the divisional round.  The truth of the matter is that these games, like the AFC Championship game on Sunday night, are as appetizing as they are because both teams involved have experienced loss, as well as victory,  at one time or the other, and, what’s more, at each other’s hand.  So bring on Ravens-Patriots next Sunday night.  And GO BRONCOS win, lose or draw.

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