DENVER – A few disconsolate Denver Broncos fans popped orange and blue balloons decorating the patio of a downtown restaurant as they left Sunday's Super Bowl party early. But Cliff Cho and his friends were among the many who lingered to the end.
"I stayed because I am a fan, we are Coloradoans and we love our Broncos," said Cho, who works in Colorado's nascent legal marijuana industry as a "bud tender."
Other fans were too downcast to speak after Seattle's 43-8 victory. A bartender reported seeing some customers in tears.
Brandon Gruenberger said he drove 18 hours from McAllen, Texas, to watch the Super Bowl in Denver, and that he had made the same drive for every Broncos home game this season.
"I watched them play every game and tonight was severely disappointing," he said. "But I still love my Broncos, no matter what."
Gov. John Hickenlooper was another fan to the end, tweeting: "Congratulations Seahawks! Congratulations Broncos! Two great teams walked onto the field; two great teams walked off the field."
The Denver Police Department had braced for trouble, deploying heavily downtown. But the crushing defeat and icy weather — it was well below freezing when the game ended — worked together to keep the mood subdued.
Near downtown, a man was shot and critically injured in the street near a home where he had attended a Super Bowl party, but it wasn't known if the shooting was related to the party, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. Police did not immediately have a suspect in the shooting, Jackson said.
It was a far cry from 1999, when the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Celebrations deteriorated into violence. Crowds smashed downtown Denver store windows and overturned cars. Police responded with tear gas.
On Sunday, some news outlets switched quickly from game coverage to previews of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi or focused on top Super Bowl commercials.
Chef Chad Howard called it a bittersweet evening. He and his two partners had worked hard to ensure that opening night for their restaurant, Krewe, coincided with the Super Bowl.
Their decor was heavy on TVs, with at least a dozen wide screens mounted around the bar.
Howard said business was brisk most of the evening, and that he didn't blame fans for leaving before the final whistle. Some had come in as many as four hours before kick-off to secure a table, he said.
"I can understand not watching a blowout, which is what this was. But at least it wasn't a shutout," Howard said. "With the season we had, we should've won this game. Or, at least made it a game.
"I would've loved to have seen them win. But to fill a bar that I'm a part of, I'm ecstatic."