(Reuters) - Less than 24 hours after New England's season ended prematurely with a heartbreaking 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said his team were ready to turn the page and move on.
Though Belichick felt it was his fault that the defending champion Patriots were ousted in the AFC title game and denied a return trip to the Super Bowl, he also referred to a combination of things that led to their defeat.
"After going through the game this morning, I feel pretty much the same as I did last night. Lot of respect for the way our team competed, proud of it," Belichick said on Monday.
"We had some opportunities, but in the end came up just a little bit short. It's bittersweet. We'll turn the page here and move on. And start the process all over again. That's where we are at," he said of New England's 2015 season.
Denver's defense stole the show on Sunday, intercepting Tom Brady twice in the opening half and making two crucial fourth down stops late in the game.
"I'd say it was a combination of things," Belichick said when asked about the repeated pressure and hits applied by the Broncos on his star quarterback. "Denver did a good job defensively.
"It's all interconnected between the receivers, the quarterback, the offensive line, the timing, the execution, the balance in the running game, longer yardage situations.
"In the end, it just wasn't as good as it needed to be yesterday. Period. In any area. I wouldn't put it on any one guy or any one situation or one position or anything like that. Just in the end we came up short."
For many New England fans, the game hinged on a pivotal moment in the opening half when the Patriots took advantage of a Denver turnover to score a touchdown and were an extra point away from tying the game at 7-7.
But Stephen Gostkowski did something he had not done since 2006, missing an extra point attempt that allowed the Broncos to maintain a lead they would never relinquish.
"Steve is a great kicker. He had a great year for us," Belichick said of Gostkowski, who had made 523 consecutive extra points until that moment and was just one of five kickers who did not have a miss the entire season.
"Every player, coach and participant in the game wishes there was a couple things they could have done differently.
"I feel that way. Everybody I've talked to feels that way. I can't imagine anybody that participated in the game doesn't feel that way. I feel like it's my fault. I'm sure all the other players that played feel like it's their fault."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)