They've seen their mistakes turn into routs and they've seen the balance of close games tipped when they made the big mistake at the most inopportune time at the most damaging part of the field.
Asked about what the Broncos need to do to change that trend Sunday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High, coach Gary Kubiak said: “The biggest thing is we need to be aggressive. ... We know that one of the keys to us playing better as a team is protecting the ball better and we did that last week. ... But everything’s important against these guys.’’
And the list of stumbles is a fairly ugly one over just the previous four seasons.
In 2014, the Broncos missed a field goal, Peyton Manning threw an interception and the Broncos surrendered an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by Julian Edelman in the first half alone as the Patriots led 27-7 at halftime on the heels of a 24-point second quarter.
In 2013, Broncos had a 24-0 lead at halftime, but Patriots scored 21 points in the third quarter. The Broncos had a fumble to go with an interception in second half and after the Broncos' defense got a key stop in overtime, a New England punt hit Broncos cornerback Tony Carter, a ball the Patriots recovered at the Denver 13-yard line just before the Patriots kicked a field goal for the win.
In 2012, the Broncos lost three fumbles in the game and lost by 10.
In the 2011 regular season, the Broncos fumbled four times, lost three of them, including a muffed punt with 3 seconds left in first half. The Patriots kicked a 34-yard field goal on the next play to end the half. Also in that game, Lance Ball lost a fumble at the Broncos’ 19-yard line that led to a Patriots field goal and Tim Tebow lost a fumble at the Broncos’ 40, which led to a New England touchdown.
And in the 2011 playoffs, just four weeks after the regular-season meeting, the Broncos' offense never got started as Tebow was sacked five times and finished 9 of 26 passing.
“When you play teams like that, you have to make the plays when you have the chance,’’ said linebacker Von Miller, “because they turn your mistakes into points, on both sides of the ball.’’
Kubiak has maintained the Broncos need to maintain their aggressiveness, but turnovers, as always, have routinely been a good gauge of how things have turned out this season for the Broncos, even with the league's No. 1 defense for much of the year to this point. In the Broncos’ eight wins, they are plus-7 in turnover margin, even as Manning had thrown a league-leading 17 interceptions.
In their two losses they were minus-7 in turnover margin, including minus-5 in the loss to the Chiefs.
“[The Patriots] are obviously the best right now, at the top of this league, the way they’re playing, got a lot of great players,’’ Kubiak said. “But we need to be aggressive, too. We need to make plays in this football game. ... It’s not so much about you can’t do this, you can’t do that, it’s what we need to do, the plays we need."