What’s worse? Never making the playoffs or suffering heartbreak after heartbreak in the playoffs?

Cleveland may tell you they’d happily be blown out in the postseason if it meant that they were playing in January, but for everyone in Denver, there’s no question that the heartbreak is worse. Maybe we’re spoiled, but it is what it is. We deserve to feel this way. Last time I checked, it was the Denver Broncos who hold the record for most Super Bowl losses.

Denver has been through Jacksonville in ’96, Pittsburgh in ’05, Baltimore in ’12, Seattle in ’13 and Indianapolis in ’14. Those last three years alone are enough to bring tears to my eyes, and I’m not so sure Denver can take much more.

What hurts isn’t that the Broncos have lost; what hurts is that they’ve crumbled. In all of those scenarios, with the possible exception of the ’12 Super Bowl, the Broncos were the heavy favorites; we were supposed to win not only that game, but the Super Bowl, too. Yet, as John Elway so aptly said following last season’s debacle against the Colts, the Broncos weren’t going out “kicking and screaming”; they gave up.

Either that, or they weren’t prepared, and I’m not sure which one’s worse.

Demaryius Thomas infamously stated that some of his teammates didn’t want to go to New England to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, and all three of Denver’s top coaches were already looking for new jobs before the ball was kicked off. It was a half-hearted effort, at best.

And who’s to say it won’t be this season, too? Who’s to say that the moment something goes wrong, like the opening safety in the Super Bowl, this team won’t clam up and submit to defeat?

Well, the Broncos. That’s who.

This is a different team. They do have a different mentality. We’ve seen it all year in these close victories, and we’ll see it in the playoffs, too. They may not win the Super Bowl, but if they don’t, they will go out “kicking and screaming.”

Here’s what the Denver Broncos had to say about the difference in their playoff mentality this season:

Virgil Green on the team’s mentality:

“I think what it’s going to take preparation-wise. In years past, I don’t think—we’ve been so good that we get into the playoffs and we think we’re just going to the same things that we’ve done to people during the season. I think this year that guys are a lot more focused. We understand that it’s the playoffs. You’re not going to go in there and just blow people out. It can happen. It happened last week, but you have to go in there, be prepared and ready to execute.”

Peyton Manning on the pressure this season:

“Like I said, in the playoffs, you certainly just want to do your job to help your team win, no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been playing. There’s no difference. This year has been a unique year with the injuries and not playing the entire time. Like I said, I was pleased to be available in the last game of the season against San Diego. I wasn’t really able to be available up until that point. I was pleased to make progress to that standpoint, and then that game took a funny turn and here we are going against Pittsburgh. I certainly am glad to be available to play and looking forward to being out there. We feel fortunate to be one of the eight teams still playing. It’s an exciting time and never take for granted this opportunity. We’re looking forward to Sunday being here.”

Aqib Talib on the loss to the Colts last season:

“In my opinion, I think we were focused on New England. We just knew we were going to tear [Indianapolis QB] Andrew Luck and the Colts, knock them out and get them up out of here. We were ready to go to New England. When I look back on last year, there was a lot of, ‘Next week when we go to New England we have to play [New England TE Rob] ‘Gronk’ [Gronkowski] like this.’ There was a bunch of future talk when we didn’t even get the Colts yet. I think that was our biggest problem last year.”

Demaryius Thomas on if he remembers distractions last season:

“I do, I do. I think it was some guys kind of just put the Colts out of the way. We were worrying about who we were going to play next. Certain guys wanted to say, ‘Well, we need to worry about the Colts,’ but it wasn’t said. Going into the game, we didn’t play too well and we didn’t have a chance to worry about who was the next [team] because we were going out.”

DT on if they’ve eliminated distractions this year:

“Oh yeah, this is basically we’re playing: the next [team] up. It’s win or go home. We know we’ve got to win two games to make it to the big game. All we’re worrying about right now is the Steelers. When we win that game, we’ll go on to the next.”

DT on if Manning is more intense and focused this year:

“I think he takes every game the same. I know it’s a playoff game, but all games we take them—we’ve got to win to get ourselves in a better position. We’re taking this one as you win or go home. The main thing he’s been talking about is taking care of the ball, no penalties and putting points on the board.”

T.J. Ward on if the approach is different this year:

“I think we’re more dialed in. I think we’re more focused, especially after losing last year in the first round at home. We don’t want to let that happen again. We’re dialed in all the way.”