There’s probably nothing more disheartening to a NFL team than to spend countless hours working to get into the playoffs only to be bounced from the tournament after just one game.
As Benjamin Disraeli, the two-time British Prime Minister once said, “There is no education like adversity,” a lesson that the 2013 Broncos had to learn the hard way thanks to that loss.
"There's no doubt it's been a journey,” said Broncos head coach John Fox during the team’s press briefings following their arrival at their Jersey City, N.J. hotel. “We had finished the season pretty strong a year ago (and were) very disappointed in the loss at home.”
Fox and his players used that disappointment as motivation almost right away after they were sent packing.
“There was definitely a different sense of urgency going in to OTAs and starting offseason training,” said cornerback Champ Bailey, who is playing in his first career Super Bowl.
"It was more of a sense of ownership this year,” added linebacker Wesley Woodyard. “We did a lot of extra stuff to prepare us, and this year it feels like this is our year to go in and be the best team."
Because of the adversity created by going one-and-done in the first round of the playoffs, Denver seemed better able to handle other types of adversity this season, most notably the sudden illness of Fox, who was hospitalized for a heart condition during the team’s bye week.
“I thought it was pretty much like any injury of a player," he said. "I mean, I was going to be four to five weeks; I made it back a little early, worked hard to get back. Really once that started, I never really gave it a second thought. I had a plan and we executed the plan, and just like I tell players, sometimes setbacks are setups for better things to come."
Indeed it was, as not only his players, but also the entire organization rallied around Fox, just as they rallied around each other following that 2012 playoff loss.
“We worked very hard in the regular season to be the No. 1 seed,” Fox said. “I would say that it was a fire in everybody's belly, the whole offseason as we went through preseason and, really, as we started this season.”
The results have certainly spoken for themselves as Denver's top-ranked offense will look to best Seattle's top-ranked defense in what's sure to be an exciting gridiron battle in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“Here’s our finished product: We’re in the Super Bowl just because guys really honed in on what they had to do,” said Bailey.
Of course, just being in the Super Bowl isn't enough for the 2013 Broncos, who are seeking the franchise’s third world championship title.
“We do a lot of extra stuff to prepare us, and this year it feels like this is our year to go in and be the best team," said Woodyard.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football, and a credentialed Super Bowl XLVIII writer. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.