ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The Denver Broncos look like they’re ready to start the season.
They had an impressive preseason debut against the Seattle Seahawks, the team that throttled them in the Super Bowl, and they christened San Francisco’s new stadium with a 34-0 shutout of the 49ers Sunday.
Denver’s starting offense is in midseason form with three scores in four possessions with Peyton Manning completing 22 of 27 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.
And they haven’t even shown the offense they’ll unveil against Indianapolis on Sept. 7, when starting running back Montee Ball returns from an appendectomy that’s sidelining him the entire preseason.
Denver’s front-line defense has been just as impressive, allowing one TD on four drives while DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib have shown exactly why GM John Elway committed $109.5 million to bring the trio to town.
Coach John Fox cringed at the thought, however, that the Broncos look ready to start the season, one in which they’ll try to become the first team in 40 years to win a Super Bowl the year after losing it.
“No, we still have a lot of work to do,” Fox said.
OK, then, certainly Manning looks ready.
“Again, we’re getting readier,” Fox said. “I’m not saying we’re not ready, but we still have two more preseason games.”
With Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt and the rest of the Houston Texans in town for joint practices this week, Denver’s starters might be in for another cameo next weekend instead of playing into the third quarter as is the norm for the third preseason game.
“This week will be a good week, we’re going to practice against Houston for three days and I think depending on how the practices go, that could maybe alter the playing time situation,” Manning said. “I think we’ll get a lot of game-like scenarios this week going against a good test, especially going against their defense.”
About the only knock on the Broncos so far was Manning’s ill-advised run on second-and-8 from the San Francisco 9 in which he gained 1 yard before Aldon Smith smothered him.
It was a designed draw for Manning, who gained zero yards on the ground last year, when he threw for a record 5,447 yards and 55 touchdowns.
“Yeah, it’s a tendency breaker,” Manning said. “You try to catch them off guard. It’s probably not really high on their alert game plan sheet, `Watch for the quarterback run.’ I thought I was going to score but I got one yard. Kind of humbling.”
And kind of frightening for Broncos fans who saw their season flash in front of their eyes.
Not to worry, Manning, 38, wasn’t making a statement to offensive coordinator Adam Gase that he wants to run the ball some this year.
“It was not that,” Manning said.
Manning’s protege, Brock Osweiler, has shown good growth in the preseason, hitting Jordan Norwood with a game-winning 34-yard dart against Seattle and throwing a 33-yard TD strike to rookie Cody Latimer on Sunday.
Neither Demaryius Thomas nor Julius Thomas have reached agreement on a new contract like Elway had hoped they would by now. Both are showing why the Broncos want to secure them to long-term deals with Demaryius catching 10 passes for 89 yards and Julius grabbing a 17-yard touchdown toss from Manning in San Francisco.
The Broncos turned the ball over way too much last year and they’ve stressed ball control during the offseason, having different position groups carry around footballs wrapped in blue helmet beanies to emphasize the point.
So far, no lost fumbles.
“You can do a lot of things if you take care of the ball,” Demaryius Thomas said.
The biggest camp casualty was weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan (leg), who’s expected to miss the first month of the season.
Brandon Marshall, who has just one NFL regular-season tackle on his resume, replaced him and led the Broncos with five tackles Sunday while playing on all three downs and making the defensive calls like Trevathan.
“Brandon got a chance to show what he’s capable of,” Fox said.
And the Broncos got the chance to flash the kind of depth they’ve lacked in years past.
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By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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