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Gazette Premium Content Klee: After Saturday's game, Broncos preseason offers a stern reality check

By Paul Klee Updated: August 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

DENVER - How's this for a slap to the orange face paint:

Aside from Peyton Manning's fast-break offense, have the Broncos done anything this offseason or preseason to confirm their status as the favorite to win the Super Bowl?

If so, please fill me in.

I haven't seen it.

The worst Broncos offseason/preseason in recent memory continued Saturday at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos beat the Rams, 27-26.

And their starting running back fumbled, again. And their special teams stunk, again. And their injury report stretched long enough to build a sidewalk for Elvis Dumervil to travel back to the Rocky Mountains.

Turnovers, special teams, injuries: Those are three pretty important aspects of football, wouldn't you say?

"That's what coach (John) Fox addressed in our gathering after the game. There are some things we have to clean up," Peyton Manning said. "And we have to do it. We can't talk about it. We have to do it."

That is about as stern a lecture as Manning is prone to give in public quarters.

Hey, I can't be the only one seeing it. These Broncos are not what they were cracked up to be.

Not right now, at least, and the good news is the games don't count until 11 days from now.

The list of crummy news is quite a bit longer.

Ronnie Hillman fumbled, and the Rams returned it for a touchdown. A week ago, Hillman fumbled and the Seahawks returned it for a touchdown.

So far this is the only way to stop this Broncos offense: Let this Broncos offense stop itself.

"Turnovers can lose you ballgames," Eric Decker said.

The Broncos' special teams allowed an 81-yard punt return to the Rams. Last week, the special teams allowed a 107-yard kick return to the Seahawks.

"It's something we will look at it," Fox said.

Robert Ayers, Champ Bailey, Derek Wolfe and Wes Welker did not play due to injury.

Look, only a fool bets against Las Vegas.

Then consider this a foolish statement: Placing a bet on the Broncos would be as smart as challenging a lightning storm with a 2-iron.

The wise guys who built the Las Vegas Strip still peg the Broncos as the prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl - even after Von Miller's suspension.

I suggest that favorite label is 100 percent because of their faith in Manning. He's the reason the Broncos are so highly regarded, when it's as obvious as a kick in the knee they aren't the balanced team that won 11 straight before entering the 2012 playoffs.

"If there's a guy to bet on, Peyton Manning is the right guy to bet on," John Elway said during a halftime interview on CBS.

Get ready for a season of shootouts, with Manning flinging the ball from here to Evergreen. Just in the first quarter, he attempted 20 passes, completing 15.

That tells me there's not a whole lot of trust elsewhere, and we'll see more of the same when the games count.

It's just preseason? Of course. Preseason results don't project the real season.

But my eyes see enough question marks to knock down those expectations a notch.

Perhaps the Broncos again piece together a memorable run through the regular season, wrap up a top seed in the AFC playoffs and build a Super Bowl contender.

But they are nowhere close after a damaging offseason. For those expecting a fast, clean start to the real season, that figures to be a slap of reality.

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