Entering Week 7, the Denver Broncos offense looked unstoppable.
We've all seen or heard of the statistics. The 44.2 points per game. The 265 total points scored through six weeks.
Peyton Manning's touchdown-to-interception ratio of 22-2. The quartet of Denver receivers all equally featured in the passing game and all on track to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards by the end of the season.
The Broncos offense is unstoppable. Or so we thought before Week 7's game versus the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos suffered their first loss of the season—and first regular season loss since Week 5 of the 2012 NFL season—falling to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, 39-33.
Denver's acclaimed offense went seven of eight drives without a first down during the second and third quarters. During that first down drought, the Colts scored three touchdowns to take a commanding 33-14 lead that the Broncos would never recover from.
Entering Week 7, the Broncos averaged just 3.2 three-and-outs per game. In Week 7 versus the Colts, the Broncos had nine offensive drives that ended without a first down.
Unlike anything we had witnessed during the 2013 season, the Broncos offense—that includes the four-time NFL MVP Manning—looked absolutely rattled.
There was Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos' top target, being shut down by Colts cornerback Vontae Davis for the entire game.
There was Manning, the four-time NFL MVP and 2013 MVP favorite, being hit and knocked down repeatedly on his way to two turnovers, which led to 12 points for the home team.
There was the Broncos offense, looking every bit as vulnerable as it did when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoffs last year after riding an 11-game winning streak.
This loss couldn't have come at a better time for the Broncos. It was about time that a team—a hard-nosed team such as the Colts, who have the fourth-best defense and the best sack specialist in all of the NFL in Robert Mathis—humbled the Broncos.
Better now, in Week 7 of the regular season, rather than in the second round of the playoffs when the Broncos would have to wait another full season just to respond to adversity.
The Broncos aren't going undefeated. They're not invincible. And contrary to popular belief, Peyton isn't perfect.
That was all on display in Week 7.
And you know what? That's just fine.
The Broncos will have a chance to respond to their first loss of the season by hosting Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins in Week 8. It's Shanny's first game in Denver since being fired by the Broncos following the 2008 season, after leading the team to its only two Super Bowl championships.
Last year, all of Denver's flaws were exposed on national television in a win-all playoff game versus the Ravens. The Broncos' flaws were exposed on national television again this year, but this time, it was in a Week 7 regular season game.
The Kansas City Chiefs remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. The Chiefs sit atop of the AFC West for now. The Broncos will have their shot at Kansas City when they play host to the Chiefs four weeks from now for AFC West supremacy.
What did we learn from the Broncos' 39-33 defeat on Sunday night?
We learned that they're not unstoppable. The notion was further reinforced that Manning struggles when he's hit. It was finally proven in an actual game that the Broncos' receivers struggle with bump-and-run pass coverage.
And although it may be worrisome to some fans in Broncos country, the Broncos have 10 more weeks to perfect their craft.
The Colts handed the Broncos their first loss of the 2013 season. What are the positives from such a loss in Manning's return to Indianapolis?
Better to learn your weaknesses in the middle of the regular season rather than in the postseason.
Denver's last winning streak ended during the postseason, but unlike last year, the Broncos offense will have plenty of opportunities in the coming months to respond to their latest defeat.