Too many mistakes. Too many missed opportunities. A 16-3 record falls by the wayside after a year in which the Colts constantly found ways to make big plays, found ways to win games despite not playing well in key areas.
"Anytime you lose the last game of the season, it's difficult," coach Jim Caldwell said. "Particularly on this (Super Bowl) stage. It's a bitter pill to swallow.
"Obviously, (the Colts) can hold their heads up. They fought all season long. They performed well all season long. So we'll just use this disappointment as fuel for next year. And as soon as we get over it, we'll look and try to mold this team and see if we can get back here next year."
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne said the Colts need to look ahead to the 2010 season.
"That's to be determined (how Indianapolis will bounce back). We've just got to step up. We've got to stay together. We've got to stay as a tight group. We've got to figure out a way to bounce back," Wayne said.
"That's the way the game goes. You win some, you lose some. I just feel that we have the caliber of team that will stick together and figure out a way to not have this feeling. Hopefully we will keep (the Colts' recent run of success) going."
His quarterback, Peyton Manning, agrees.
"I felt like we played well in this postseason. We played well in our first playoff game. Played well (against the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game). At times we made plays against the Saints. But we obviously didn't make enough plays. We just didn't play well enough to win."
Tight end Dallas Clark had a hard time putting things into perspective.
"It's miserable. It's not the way you want to end your season. It's still a little early to comment on a true feeling. But it's not good," Clark said. "We had our opportunities. We just weren't able to take advantage of them."
Defensive tackle Daniel Muir said the players need to try to put the Saints' loss behind them.
"One thing about our team is that we are never down. It doesn't matter. We are going to fight you until the end," he said. "Guys were obviously upset. (Losing to the Saints) was not the outcome that we wanted in the football game. It is hard to take a loss, especially one of this magnitude."
Weak-side linebacker Clint Session was at a loss for words to explain what happened to Super Bowl XLIV.
"This is a tough feeling. This is a tough feeling. You let the city down. We let ourselves down. We let the (coaching) staff down. They're not playing. We're out there playing. I don't know, man. It's tough. It's a tough loss," Session said.
Cornerback Kelvin Hayden tried to put the Super Bowl loss to the Saints, and the entire 2009 season, into some perspective.
"It's disappointing because we set the mission to come out as Super Bowl champions and we feel one game short," Hayden said.
"We just fall into the pile with the rest of the teams (in the league). We didn't finish the task. Not taking anything away from this season because we had a great season as a team. We fought adversity week in and week out. We had a great year."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Colts' young receivers, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, made huge strides during the course of the 2009 regular season. Collie wasn't slated to see a lot of playing time early in the year but was thrown into the fire when starter Anthony Gonzalez suffered a season-ending knee injury in the regular season opener. Garcon also quickly developed.
The running game also showed improvement as the season progressed. Defensive tackles Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson helped to solidify the middle of the defensive line. Safety Melvin Bullitt played very well as he started the majority of the team's games at strong safety, taking over for an injured Bob Sanders.
And rookie cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey were forced to play earlier than expected due to injuries to starters Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson. Punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee also had a strong rookie season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Key injuries to key defensive personnel hurt the Colts throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson and Tyjuan Hagler all suffered season-ending injuries. Hayden missed the early portion of the season due to a variety of injuries. Defensive end Dwight Freeney's third-degree ankle sprain heading into the Super Bowl also hurt his overall effectiveness.
The offense wasn't immune, either, as Gonzalez suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.
While the running game did show improvement as the year progressed, it's still not up to the form the Colts showed during the team's 2006 run to Super Bowl XLI. More consistency is needed in the running game next year. Placekicker Adam Vinatieri came into the season injured after having hip surgery. He also had knee surgery in the middle of the year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our team is certainly disappointed. There's only one happy team in the National football League at the end of the year. Obviously, that's the goal and the aim. To win it all, to win the Lombardi Trophy and we failed at that. We're proud of the way we fought all year long. They did a great job of representing our franchise, our organization. They did a tremendous job during the regular season. But you don't get any trophies for the regular season. So we're going to take our disappointment and let it fuel us a little bit and see what 2010 brings for us." — Caldwell after his team dropped a 31-17 decision to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.
He finished the game with one tackle, a sack.