NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
For the first time this season, quarterback Peyton Manning turned in an erratic performance. It did not matter to the Denver Broncos, who overcame the glitches to remain unbeaten.
Knowshon Moreno ran for three touchdowns, Manning threw for two scores to help offset his three turnovers and the Broncos pulled away to beat the winless Jacksonville Jaguars 35-19 on Sunday.
"Some Sundays, you're sharper than others," said Manning, whose team was held to a season low in points. "The execution wasn't as sharp, I wasn't as sharp. There were some bad decisions on my part. But there were some good drives coming out in the second half.
"You score a lot of points, people take it for granted," added Manning. "But I learned long ago never to take winning for granted and we appreciate this win."
Manning started off well with first-quarter touchdown passes of 3 yards to Julius Thomas and 20 yards to Wes Welker to increase his season total to 22, the most through six games in NFL history. But then he hit a lull, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown and fumbling twice.
The Broncos even got some boos from their fickle home crowd when they trotted off the field with a two-point halftime lead.
"We've got high expectations, too, so we understand that they have high expectations for us," Welker said. "We feel the same way. I'm sure there are a lot of us that want to boo ourselves. I almost appreciate it, kind of 'Get our butts in gear and get ready to play out there.'"
Moreno helped bail out the sluggish Broncos offense by getting the tough yards in the red zone. He finished with 42 yards and had touchdowns of 3, 8 and 5 yards, all in the second half, as Denver (6-0) extended its franchise-record winning streak to 17 regular-season games.
"Any way we had to get some points on the board, we were doing it," said Moreno, who graded the Broncos' performance as a "C."
"It was good enough today but it's not good enough to win games down the road," he said. "They played really hard all day and we made a lot of mistakes. There's still a lot that we have to fix."
Denver also got a boost from the return of 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who made his season debut after missing the first five games with a foot sprain suffered in a preseason game against Seattle.
But it was tougher against Jacksonville than the oddsmakers, who made Denver a 27-point favorite going into the game, thought it would be.
Denver pulled out to a 14-0 lead as Manning finished the Broncos' opening possession with a short scoring pass to Thomas before hitting Welker for a 20-yard TD pass.
It was the 800th career reception by Welker, who became the 27th player in NFL history to reach the milestone.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES
--WR Wes Welker is only the second undrafted player with at least 800 career receptions. Rod Smith, a member of the Broncos' Ring of Fame, is the other.
--RT Orlando Franklin left the game with a left knee injury.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Mistakes are mistakes. You don't want to see them. You don't want to have them. We put too many balls on the ground. That's going to get you beat. At the same time, we're happy we came out with the win versus a really good team. But now we've got to move on." -- RB Knowshon Moreno.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
What we learned:
Even a perfectionist like Peyton Manning can have an off day. Manning threw for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns but was very human the rest of the way, committing three turnovers, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown. No one, though, is harder on Manning than Manning, who said he'll hit the film room Sunday night and Monday to go over his mistakes and fix them. After all, the next game is always the most important for Manning, and in this case, his next game is at Indianapolis, where he starred for 14 years before coming to the Broncos two years ago.
--More help is on the horizon for the Broncos defense. Cornerback Champ Bailey returned from a five-game absence, helping shore up Denver's last-ranked secondary in his season debut. And pass-rushing linebacker Von Miller is due back next week after sitting out the first six games because of a league-imposed suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Matching points with the Broncos offense is tough already and it could get a lot harder with the return of Denver's top two defenders.