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Mistakes haunt Broncos; Offense, defense, special teams all get toasted

There were at least 60 men crammed into the visitors locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium Saturday night, yet in the aftermath of the Broncos' 40-14 loss to the Bills, it was just about silent.

Many players put on colorful holiday sweaters as they left the visitors locker room -- the silliness of their attire in stark contrast to the somber atmosphere from players and coaches as they prepared for a cross-country Christmas Eve flight.

"We're frustrated. We feel like that was an embarrassing performance, and we know we're better than that," Broncos tight end Daniel Fells said.

The mistakes were many, with no group of players immune from the miscues.

With the exception of two long scoring drives, one each to start the first and third quarters, the Broncos' offense was sluggish and error-prone, the defense gave up three runs of at least 25 yards and two passes of at least 30 yards, and the special teams unit allowed its first return for a touchdown this season, among other blunders.

"Too many big plays, in all three phases," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "You can't play defense as poorly as we did, and give up a lot of points in every phase of the game. I mean, offense, defense, special teams. We all gave up a touchdown, and that's not acceptable."

On Saturday, the errors came in bunches.

The Broncos saw a 7-0 first-quarter lead disappear with a miserable second quarter. The offense failed to convert on a third-and-1 and third-and-2, part of four drives that ended in punts, one of which was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin.

The common thread in the Broncos' six-game winning streak through November and early December was that quarterback Tim Tebow and the offense -- while not always producing plenty of yards and points -- didn't give the opponents many chances, either.

That has changed in the past two weeks, with three lost fumbles a week ago against the Patriots and four interceptions Saturday to the Bills leaving the team with a negative-seven turnover margin in the past two weeks.

Coach John Fox might like to say he's not into statistics, but that one is too dramatic to ignore.

"You know, we had opportunities, but they went the other way," Fox said.

Tebow, who had thrown only two interceptions in his first nine starts this season, threw four in a little over a quarter. His first Saturday came on the Broncos' last play of the third quarter, while Denver trailed 23-14.

His next two interceptions were even more costly, as the Bills returned both for touchdowns on back-to-back plays midway through the fourth quarter.

"We put ourselves in a bad situation, and then tried to catch up," Tebow said.

Tebow has lost consecutive games for the first time as an NFL starter, and for the first time as a starter period since October 2007, during his sophomore year at Florida.

Even after Tebow's rough day, his teammates said their confidence in him -- and the team as a whole -- was unwavering.

"No, absolutely not. I know what we're capable of," Bailey said. "The reason we came back was because we executed on all three phases -- offense, defense and special teams, so it's not because we wanted it, it's because we executed the calls."