DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos are welcoming back suspended superstar Von Miller with open arms and a spotless 6-0 record.
The Broncos’ bedraggled defense can sure use his help pressuring the passer.
Denver’s shaky secondary allowed Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon to play catch all afternoon before the Broncos put away the winless Jacksonville Jaguars 35-19 Sunday.
Blackmon caught 14 passes for 190 yards and Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 71 yards and a score, but the Broncos remained unbeaten behind Peyton Manning’s two touchdown throws and Knowshon Moreno’s first career three-TD game.
The Jaguars were a record 27-point underdog but didn’t play like it.
“This is still the NFL,” Denver’s Champ Bailey said. “Nobody’s a cakewalk in this league.”
Bailey, who made his 2013 debut after missing two months with a sprained left foot, said the Broncos are eager to get Miller, their All-Pro linebacker, back in the mix but they can’t count on him being a cure-all.
“When you have a dynamic player returning to your lineup, he’s definitely going to cause some problems for people,” Bailey said. “But we can’t rely on him to do everything. It’s an 11-man game, so we got to make sure we do our part.”
Miller returns just in time for Manning’s homecoming game at Indianapolis (4-1) next Sunday night, something Manning was loath to talk about after the Jaguars (0-6) gave him all he could handle with three takeaways and two sacks.
Five things that had others talking after the Jaguars put such a scare into the Broncos:
ORLANDO FRANKLIN: The Broncos lost their massive right tackle to a left knee injury in the third quarter and he hobbled out of the locker room on a cane a month after All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady was lost to a season-ending foot injury.
With “Big O” out, the Broncos turned to Chris Kuper, who’s been bothered by leg injuries the last two years, at right guard and slid Louis Vasquez to right tackle.
“It was a pretty good example of versatility,” Manning said. “Obviously, we have our fingers crossed for Orlando. You hate to see that, but you’ve got to go play. You have to go out there. I know Kupe has been hungry to get out there. He’s worked real hard to get healthy.”
GUTSY JAGUARS: The Jaguars took little solace in playing the Broncos tough.
“We’re not at all satisfied with what took place as far as the outcome,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said.
He rattled off the good — linebacker Paul Posluszny’s 59-yard pick-6 that pulled Jacksonville to 14-12 at the half, recoveries of Manning’s two fumbled snaps and Denver’s half dozen drives that ended without points.
“All things we can build on,” Bradley said. “We feel like we’re getting closer, we’re going in the right direction, but I want them to understand that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re trying to get the outcome in our favor.”
THE REPLACEMENTS: The Broncos didn’t miss Robert Ayers (shoulder) because his replacement, second-year pro Malik Jackson had seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
Both of his sacks came in the same series sandwiched around his stuff of Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss.
“This is my first time really going out there and performing like that,” Jackson said. “The greats keep it up and I’m just trying to keep it up and keep working and get many performances like that.”
IMPERFECT PEYTON: Manning went 28 for 42 for 295 yards, marking the first time he’s been held under 300 this season. His two TD passes gave him 22 on the year, a record for an NFL quarterback through six games.
But he also lost a pair of fumbles on bad exchanges from center and threw his second interception of the season.
“The best thing about this team,” receiver Eric Decker said, “is we always find a way to win.”
MORE MORENO: Moreno’s three TD runs, all in the second half, gave him seven for the season, tying his career high set as a rookie in 2007.
“A lot of people think we just throw the ball and we don’t like to run it,” tight end Julius Thomas said, “but we’re going to go with what’s working.”
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer