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Gazette Premium Content Klee: Broncos' big weakness exposed in first loss of season

By Paul Klee Updated: October 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

INDIANAPOLIS — In Broncos Country, it’s easy to forget what a loss feels like.

They just don’t happen very often. Over the past year and 13 days, a stretch of 18 games, the Broncos have lost exactly twice.

Baltimore 38, Denver 35.

Indianapolis 39, Denver 33.

Here’s the silver lining, if that’s your thing: the Broncos gift-wrapped both of those losses. They didn’t get beat. They beat themselves.

The Broncos melted down Sunday night inside Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts were, and are, just OK. This loss, which ended Denver’s franchise-record 17-game winning streak during the regular season, was more a result of the Broncos being boneheaded.

So don’t worry that Peyton Manning threw a handful of passes that wobbled and gobbled like turkeys, or ducks. In his return to Indy, he passed for 386 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Given time to throw, Peyton was Peyton.

Don’t worry the Broncos have their first loss. The 2007 Patriots played in an awful division when they finished 16-0. These Broncos play in the excellent AFC West. 

Perfection was always just a dream.

Here’s why you should worry:

The Broncos offensive line is being held together by second-stringers and duct tape.

The Colts defense punished and pummeled Manning as if he were a piñata.

This is a worry.

All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady is out for the season. Right tackle Orlando Franklin is out indefinitely. Louis Vasquez made his first NFL start at right tackle. 

And on and on and on.

That’s a whole lot of moving and shaking to not have an impact.

Instead of picking apart the opposing defense, Manning was picking tufts of FieldTurf out of his helmet. The Colts sacked him four times.

This is a worry.

Just as Manning was about to add to his NFL-record for comeback wins, the Colts hit him again. The ball fluttered into the air and into the arms of a former teammate.

Hey, Indy: This is strange Midwestern hospitality, thumping your old buddy like that.

Prior to kickoff, Manning was honored with a pregame tribute on the video board. It was brief, the applause was loud, and Manning gave the impression he just wanted the whole thing over with.

He mouthed the words, “I appreciate it.”

Here’s something the former Colt would appreciate even more: A healthy offensive line.

What’s the only way the Broncos won’t be a favorite to reach the Super Bowl?

If No. 18 isn’t upright.

This is a worry.

Prior to Sunday, the Broncos hadn’t lost in the regular season since Oct. 7, 2012. The Patriots beat the Broncos 31-21.

As the Colts crowd roared, and the P.A. system piped in music to make it even louder, the Broncos offense looked nothing like the Broncos offense.

The offense was discombobulated. I tend to think the offense was missing the big bodies who usually make up the offensive line.

This is a worry.

Kudos to the Colts. They deserved it, because Denver played dumb.

Tight end Virgil Green was penalized for head-butting. Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson was penalized for removing his helmet from his head. Twice.

What was up with the Broncos heads?

This was no Mile High Mistake.

This was Circle City Silliness.

The Broncos puked up three turnovers and 12 penalties. They still lost by only six points.

Manning’s return to Indianapolis was weird, and it was wild.

Was it worrisome?

It was, and here’s why: The only way the Broncos aren’t a favorite to win the AFC is if Manning is on the ground.

He was on the ground way too often on Sunday.

This is a worry.

 -

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

 

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