New England Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers (55) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) in the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne
November 03, 2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Peyton Manning admittedly stunk up Gillette Stadium. If that's the case, he wasn't alone.

''I think we all stunk,'' coach John Fox said Monday after the Denver Broncos' 43-21 loss at New England. ''There was some good, there was some bad, not enough good. Really, at the end of the day, the buck stops here. That's on me. We all got our signature on it.''

The Broncos' 22-point loss was their worst in the regular season since Manning came to Denver in 2012. So, this Monday was a little darker than usual and not just because of the storm rolling through the Rocky Mountains.

It wasn't just that they lost, but how the lost and who defeated them.

After meeting in the conference championship, which Denver won 26-16, the Patriots and Broncos squared off in free agency.

New England added two cover cornerbacks and Denver signed three Pro Bowl defenders and a speedy wide receiver, but they lost for a third straight year in Foxborough.

Still, Fox said the Broncos didn't necessarily have to fight a bigger hangover.

''Shoot, there's half the season left,'' Fox said. ''I mean, we're only halfway. There's been a bunch of anointed teams already. That doesn't mean anything. Truth be told, you're two weeks away from disaster, and that's the NFL. You've got to show up every week and I think we're capable of better than what we did yesterday.''

About the only thing that went wrong for the Broncos in the first two months of the season was Manning calling tails in overtime at Seattle. It was heads and the Broncos never got the ball back, losing 26-20 in Week 3.

The Broncos bounced back and roared through October 4-0 behind Manning's record-shattering touchdown throws and Von Miller's resurgence, once more giving Denver that Super Bowl swag.

Then, came the debacle at New England where, despite 10 days to prepare, the Broncos (6-2) unraveled on offense, defense, special teams and also the sideline in yet another loss to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

They also lost middle linebacker Nate Irving to a torn right medical collateral ligament that's expected to sideline him until mid-December.

Manning's only real blunder was the pass he threw right at defensive end Rob Ninkovich, whose game-turning interception ignited the rout. Afterward, the five-time MVP lamented, ''When the quarterback stinks usually you're not going to win too many games.''

If Manning stunk, he had plenty of accomplices:

-The punt coverage unit was missing three regulars and Julian Edelman returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown after Britton Colquitt barely got the ball off after a bobble.

-Wes Welker had another awful homecoming. His ''volleyball set'' of a Manning pass ended up in the hands of cornerback Brandon Browner, whose return set up a TD. Welker bruised his back on the play.

-After Brandon McManus missed his third field goal in nine tries, Fox decided to go for it on fourth-and-6 from midfield but the Patriots sacked Manning on a simple stunt out of a three-man rush.

Asked Monday if McManus had job security, Fox said: ''We're not here to pin it on one person. It's definitely not the kicker.''

-With Virgil Green (calf) out, Julius Thomas had to stay in and block and was targeted just twice, catching an 18-yard TD pass. His counterpart, Rob Gronkowski, caught nine passes for 105 yards and a TD.

-Miller's six-game sack streak ended as the Broncos failed to pressure Brady, who threw four TD passes.

-And Adam Gase's game plan was easily deciphered, at least according to Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. He said the Patriots ''understood what they were trying to do and what they were trying to accomplish on offense.''

Fox figures that was just braggadocio.

''I think there were some times WE didn't know what we were doing,'' Fox cracked.

Notes: Steven Johnson is expected to replace Irving in the base defense. ''Shoot, I've been here three years now, I know the system and I've been chomping at the bit for a long time,'' Johnson said. Johnson played alongside WLB Brandon Marshall on the scout team last year, ''so I already know how B-Marsh plays,'' he said.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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