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CINCINNATI — The Broncos lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 37-28, on Monday night, missing out on clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs and staying in the hunt for home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. Here are six takeaways from the team’s first loss since Nov. 16 at St. Louis.

1. There’s no need to hit the panic button

The Broncos are still in the playoffs as AFC West champions for the fourth consecutive year. It was a long shot they were going to steal home-field advantage in the AFC from the New England Patriots.

Despite the loss, the Broncos still will get a playoff game at Sports Authority Field, where they are 7-0 this season and 23-3 (counting the playoffs) in the Peyton Manning era. And if they beat the lowly Oakland Raiders on Sunday in the regular-season finale, they will get a bye to rest and recover from a slew of injuries.

Plus, it’s better now to get a bad game out of the way. Manning throwing four interceptions and the offensive line having issues and the terrible special teams are better to be exposed in a December game against the Bengals when a playoff spot was already clinched than in, say, mid-January when adjustments can’t be made.

Yes, it’s a loss. On the road. To a team going to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. And there are some things that need fixing — hello, special teams — but it’s not the end of the world in Broncos Country.

2. A little comeuppance never hurts

After last week’s win over the San Diego Chargers, Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said:  “It doesn’t matter what happens. At the end of the year, we’re hoisting that trophy. I don’t care if New England doesn’t lose again. I don’t care where we have to play. I don’t care who our opponent is. We’re not going to be satisfied until we hoist that trophy. So if we’ve got to go to New England (in the playoffs) and win somewhere we’re not used to winning, we’re going to make it happen.”

It was a bold statement. Perhaps too bold. But hitting a road block like Monday’s loss could be a good thing. Previous Broncos teams that have cruised into the postseason have been bitten. In 2012, the Broncos won their last 11 regular-season games — then the Flacco Fling happened. In 1996, the Broncos had the division title wrapped up on Dec. 1 — then Jacksonville happened.

Getting thumped now serves as a reminder — winning the big shiny silver trophy in February isn’t going to be easy. It never is. Winning it doesn’t require staying in cruise control but keeping the foot on the gas pedal and to take nothing for granted.

3. December losses have happened before and good things followed

History says December losses aren’t the end of the world for the Broncos. In the seven times they have reached the Super Bowl, the Broncos lost games in December.

In 1997, the Broncos were 11-2 and were cruising toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Then they lost at Pittsburgh, 35-24, and at San Francisco, 34-17, in Weeks 15 and 16. After stomping the San Diego Chargers, 38-3, to end the regular season. the Broncos then won three playoff games — two of them on the road — then upset the Green Bay Packers, 31-24, to win Super Bowl XXXII.

In 1998, the Broncos were 13-0 but lost at the New York Giants, 20-16, and at the Miami Dolphins, 31-21, in Weeks 15 and 16. They then romped through the playoffs and their second straight title.

In 2013, the Broncos lost to the San Diego Chargers, 27-20, in Week 15 and reached Super Bowl XLVIII.

In 1989, the Broncos lost three of four December games and reached Super Bowl XXIV.

In 1987, a 28-21 loss at Seattle on Dec. 13 didn’t delay a run to Super Bowl XXII.

In 1986, the Broncos lost two of their last three regular-season games but still made Super Bowl XXI — in large part thanks to “The Drive.”

In 1977, the Orange Crush Broncos lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the regular-season finale, but then won the first two playoff games in franchise history and made Super Bowl XII.

4. No 13-3 curse

The loss means the Broncos will not finish with 13 regular-season wins. The Broncos have lost in the playoffs at home four times — each time when they finished 13-3. The fifth time, the team lost in the Super Bowl.

2013: Lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII at East Rutherford, N.J.

2012: Lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 38-35, in double overtime in the AFC divisional round at home.

2005: Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-17, in the AFC Championship Game at home.

1996: Lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-27, in the AFC divisional round at home.

1984: Lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-17, in the AFC divisional round at home.

5. Playoff scenarios

The loss allowed the New England Patriots to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. A Broncos win Sunday at home in the regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders will give them the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. If the Broncos lose, they can still get the No. 2 seed with a Bengals loss or a Bengals tie and Indianapolis Colts win.

Assuming the Broncos snag the No. 2 seed, the winner of Sunday’s Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers game will win the AFC North and be the No. 3 AFC seed. The AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts are locked into the No. 4 seed.

The loser of the Bengals-Steelers game is still in the playoffs and will be the No. 5 seed, so on Wild Card Weekend, the Bengals-Steelers loser will play at Indianapolis. The No. 6 seed will come from among the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. How those teams can get into the playoffs:

San Diego Chargers

Win at Kansas City or tie and have the Ravens lose or tie

Baltimore Ravens

Win at home against Cleveland and have the Chargers lose or tie. Or tie against the Browns and have the Chargers lose

Kansas City Chiefs

Beat the Chargers, have the Ravens lose and have the Texans lose or tie.

Houston Texans

Beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, and have the Ravens and Chargers lose

No matter what, the Broncos as the No. 2 seed would not play the No. 6 seed in the AFC Divisional round at home on the weekend of Jan. 10-11. If form holds — and it’s the NFL, so it rarely does — the Steelers or Bengals will come to Sports Authority Field for the Broncos’ first playoff game.

6. They said it

Assorted comments after the game.

Broncos coach John Fox: “I’m very proud of our guys tonight for our resiliency, our ability to come back after negative plays and put positive plays and string them together. Obviously, the defense was huge with the takeaways. How we played on third down was huge. Offensively, we kept coming back and striking and making big plays. And, obviously, we did a great job on the return game tonight. Obviously, things to work on and do, but we’re still in position, still controlling our destiny, and that’s all we can ask for at this point in the year.”

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning: “It’s disappointing. We had an opportunity to win this game tonight. We would have preferred that. We have another opportunity next week. … It wasn’t good. With four interceptions, you’re not going to beat many good football teams.”

Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas:We’ve still got ourselves in a pretty good position. We have to play better next week and beat Oakland. If we get the second seed and the bye, whatever we did to this point will be behind us. It’s all about playoffs from there.”

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders: “No excuses, we’ve got to play better as an offense. Rain, sleet, snow, we’ve got to get better.”

Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware:There’s no excuses. We have to play better. We had new guys in there, but whether it’s the ones or the fours it just shows how much the little things matter.”

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton: “Until we had a win like this, people kept saying we couldn’t win in prime time. So it was big for us to get this win. Regardless of what people were saying, this win meant more because it got us into the playoffs.”