Twenty hours of reflection did little to change the way the Patriots felt following the sudden end to their season in Denver. The Patriots 20-18 heartbreaking loss to the Broncos in the AFC title game was still very much on the minds of those in Foxborough, and the few players that ventured into the locker room continued to express the disappointment that was apparent Sunday night.
"I'd say after going through the game this morning, I feel pretty much the same as I did last night," Bill Belichick said to open his press conference Monday morning. "I have a lot of respect for the way our team competed. I'm proud of it. [We] had guys battling right to the very last play with a chance to tie or win, however you want to look at it. I think each of us that competed in the game, players, coaches, all feel the same way - probably a couple plays, couple calls, couple whatever, that we'd all like to have back. In a close game like that, I think you always feel that way. This is no different.
"Denver is a good football team. We had some opportunities, but in the end just came up a little bit short and that's obviously a disappointing feeling at this time of the year. [We'll] turn the page here and move on, and start the process all over again. That's where we're at."
Several players spoke to the media while cleaning out their lockers on Monday as the team wraps up the 2015 season.
Starting center Bryan Stork was certainly on board with his coach's sentiments. He was one of the few players to speak in the locker room just prior to a team meeting. Stork was asked several questions about the game, and used a similar refrain to answer all of them.
"I'm just on to next year," he said. Asked when that process began, Stork added, "I'm just on to next year. Whenever the game's over you move on to next year."
Special teams captain Matthew Slater was his typically gracious self and added some perspective to the situation. In expressing disappointment over the loss, Slater explained how draining the entire process can be from a player's viewpoint.
"You spend a number of months building up toward a certain point of the season and we put a lot of time and effort just to get to yesterday's game. The whole season was about getting to yesterday's game. We just came up short," Slater said. "It's definitely disappointing. It's a very sudden ending and it's tough pill to swallow.
"Sitting on it for a few hours now we should be proud of what we accomplished. We have a great team with a lot of good guys and we did some good things this year."
As part of some successful Patriots teams of the past, Slater understands that the standards in Foxborough are a bit higher than they are in most other NFL cities. When asked if he could look at the season as a success, the veteran pulled no punches.
"It never feels like a successful season unless you win the whole thing," he said. "That's what this team is built to do around here. That's what our expectation is. We're obviously disappointed. I think a month or two from now you'll be able to look back say, 'Hey, there are some great things that we did and we should be proud of what we accomplished.'"
Part of the difficulty in moving past such a gut-wrenching defeat is the sacrifice that the players make, but Slater was also quick to point out the stress placed upon the families involved.
"I'll just speak for myself. It takes me a while [to get over losses] because we put so much into it," said Slater, who also said he wasn't sure if he would be physically ready to head to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl next week. "Personally I ask a lot of my family to sacrifice for me to do what I do and I know I sacrifice a lot so it takes a while to get over it.
"I have a wife that's pretty much been raising a son on her own the last couple of months so I'm tapping in as a dad as of last night. Our families make great sacrifices for us to do what we do."
Various reports indicated the Patriots signed four players to futures contracts. They were running back Joey Iosefa, offensive linemen Chris Barker and Keavon Milton and safety Cedric Thompson.