Stephen Gostkowski's missed PAT looms large, but doesn't deserve full blame
It's easy to say that if Gostkowski made the extra point early in the game, the Patriots wouldn't have needed to try for the two point conversion at the end of the game, but that doesn't tell the full story. New England didn't do enough to win the game.
The offensive line was atrocious
Quarterback Tom Brady was pressured on over 62% of his dropbacks, which is absolutely unacceptable. CBS tracked 61 dropbacks, 4 sacks, 18 hurries, and 16 hits over the course of the game. That unit was bad and needs to be addressed over the offseason since literally every single player was bad.
Homefield advantage mattered
The Broncos crowd generated enough noise where the Patriots offensive line had to go silent count in order to snap the ball. Center Bryan Stork bobbed his head with each snap and the Denver pass rushers keyed in and got the jump on the blockers on every snap.
The Patriots didn't have the weapons to win
Rob Gronkowski came to play. So did Julian Edelman, in the second half. James White wanted to play, but was only involved in deep shots for some reason. Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin were only decoys. Danny Amendola couldn't stay healthy. Look for the Patriots to add a body over the offseason.
The defense was outstanding
I blame the opening Denver drive on the coaching staff. There's no excuse for playing off coverage against a quarterback that can only attack with timing routes. Outside of that, the Patriots defense did everything they needed for New England to win. Jamie Collins (two touchdown passes aside) was great and Dont'a Hightower was phenomenal. The secondary was fantastic, and the run defense was incredible. They did everything outside of forcing a couple more turnovers.
The coaching staff made some terrible decisions
Why run against that defense? Why? Why?! To set up the play action? News flash: the Broncos pass rush was in the backfield before Brady could even fake the hand off. Every single run play was a waste of a snap that could have been better used.
Ignore the why didn't they take the field goals? crowd
There's no way the Patriots could have predicted that they would get the ball three times and score another touchdown. They struggled to move the ball all day.