Den­ver’s Man­ning af­ter per­fect game

Team feels win over Raiders on Thurs­day wasn’t its best ef­fort.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Byarnie Sta­ple­ton ben mar­got / as­so­ci­ated PRESS

EN­GLE­WOOD, COLO. — The Den­ver Broncos are as com­plete a team as the NFL has to of­fer, with Pey­ton Man­ning’s pin­point passes and Von Miller’s sack-strips set­ting the tone for a squad that hasn’t lost in two months.

Still, there are blem­ishes for th­ese Broncos (10-3), whose quest for that prover­bial com­plete game marches on through mal­adies — red zone stalls, pass pro­tec­tion pit­falls, cov­er­age blun­ders — that could de­rail their dreams.

As coach John Fox said Fri­day fol­low­ing his team’s lat­est win, a me­thod­i­cal 26-13 beat­down of the Oak­land Raiders: “We still need to get bet­ter.”

Even though they’ve won eight straight, they have a lengthy to-do list.

“Each week, there are lit­tle things we can tweak and fix,” line­backer D.J. Wil­liams said.

To still be search­ing for that all-around game this time of year is ac­tu­ally a good thing, Man­ning in­sists. Af­ter all, what good does it do to peak be­fore the play­offs?

“We’re still look­ing for that per­fect four-quar­ter game, 60-minute game. I’m not sure if you want to play it early in the sea­son. I think you hopefully want to find it some­where in the month of De­cem­ber, maybe go­ing into Jan­uary,” Man­ning said.

The Broncos really haven’t been threat­ened in any game since their 35-point sec­ond-half on­slaught at San Diego on Oct. 15 that thrust them into this pro­longed tear. They none­the­less keep find­ing enough flaws to pre­vent them from get­ting big-headed.

“I know coming back af­ter this lit­tle break we’re play­ing a very good team in Baltimore,” Fox said. “So, it’ll be a good mea­sur­ing stick of where we are.”

Even though the Broncos found a ground game to com­ple­ment their pass­ing prow­ess — Know­shon Moreno had a ca­reer­high 32 car­ries for 119 yards against the Raiders — there were enough prob­lems pop­ping up to keep the coach­ing staff busy over the long week­end as they pre­pare for their big­gest game of the sea­son Dec. 16 against the Ravens (9-3).

Af­ter scor­ing a touch­down on their open­ing drive, the Broncos of­fense sput­tered, turn­ing the ball over at the goal line once and set­tling for field goals four other times while also scor­ing a TD on a 2-yard drive fol­low­ing Miller’s fifth forced fum­ble in five weeks.

Wide re­ceiver De­mary­ius Thomas be­moaned the Broncos’ in­abil­ity to fin­ish off drives, which is be­com­ing a nasty habit.

“We’ve got some things to work on,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a great team coming up, and we’ve got to work on them a lot, be­cause we need touch­downs, not three points.”

The Broncos’ fi­nal trip into the red zone didn’t pro­duce a touch­down, ei­ther, but they didn’t mind as Man­ning took three kneel-downs af­ter Moreno car­ried eight times from mid­field to the Raiders 8, forc­ing Oak­land to use all three of its time­outs.

“I was really proud of that last drive,” Man­ning said. “I thought that was really some­thing spe­cial. Prob­a­bly more of a line coach’s dream. Prob­a­bly not ex­cit­ing for any­body do­ing fan­tasy (foot­ball).”

Broncos quar­ter­back Pey­ton Man­ning hands off to Know­shon Moreno, who had 119 yards against the Raiders on Thurs­day. The Broncos had to set­tle for four field goals af­ter start­ing game with a TD.

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