Things the Denver Broncos Still Must Improve
Now, the Broncos aren't even first place in their own division.
Despite having Manning and arguably the league's best offense, there are still some things the Broncos must improve upon if they are going to realize their championship dreams.
After all, it will only take one performance in the postseason like the one they had against Indianapolis to end it all.
The Denver Broncos have been excellent in stopping the run, giving up a league-low 77.1 yards per game. Unfortunately, they are dead last against the pass.
The Broncos are giving up 319.9 yards through the air. The NFL is more pass-happy than ever, so this is something the team must fix.
Tony Romo threw for over 500 yards and Justin Blackmon caught 14 passes for 190 yards—with Champ Bailey in the lineup.
Bailey has battled a foot injury since the preseason, but he is showing signs of slowing down despite a stellar NFL career. Denver will have some tough decisions later in the year concerning him.
Denver will have to find the right combination on defense in order to stop teams from racking up the passing yards against them.
The Broncos have been penalized 49 times this season—only nine teams have been flagged more.
Against the Colts, the Broncos gave up 103 yards on 12 penalties, a big factor in their defeat.
Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson was flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct and then later for a crucial roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter.
That penalty can certainly be argued, but it still was a lack of judgment on the part of Vickerson, even if what he did was minor.
Get More Consisent Pressure on the Quarterback
It isn't that the Broncos aren't getting to the quarterback, because they are. Players such as Shaun Phillips and Malik Jackson have stepped up of late.
However, the defense hasn't been able to swarm around the quarterback the way they did last season. That obviously can be directly linked to the departure of Elvis Dumervil coupled with Von Miller missing the first six games of the season due to suspension.
Miller is back and now he and the rest of the defense must find a way to force the opposing quarterback into more hurried decisions, and if they don't get the sack, at least force more throwaways.
This could also be a big help in cutting down the amount of passing yards the team is giving up on a weekly basis.
Protecting the Ball
Turnovers are easily one of the biggest things that can lead to a loss in the NFL.
Peyton Manning has done a very good job this season, throwing just three interceptions. Fumbles have been another story.
The Broncos seem to cough the ball up all too often and they have three players who are very shaky with the ball in their hands.
Rookie Montee Ball has already fumbled twice. Ronnie Hillman has lost most all of his playing time because he can't hang on to the ball and Trindon Holliday, while an excellent kick return man, routinely has miscues with the ball.
A fumble by Holliday on Sunday night led to a Colts touchdown on the very next play. A fourth quarter fumble by Hillman killed any chances Denver had for a comeback win.
Take away these two turnovers and the Broncos are probably sitting at 7-0.
Stick with Knowshon
It may sound weird, but Knowshon Moreno is the best running back on the Denver Broncos roster, and it really isn't very close.
So why is Ronnie Hillman in the game when it matters most on Sunday night, getting a carry on the Indianapolis 2-yard line that he fumbles?
Moreno has scored multiple times from inside the 5-yard line this season, so it's very puzzling as to why the team chose to go with Hillman in that particular situation.
It makes sense to insert rookie Montee Ball here and there to help him develop, but Moreno shouldn't come off the field very often.
He is the team's best runner and pass-blocker at the running back position and he is becoming a real threat in the passing game.
Denver needs to ride Moreno as much as they can.
Protecting Peyton Manning
Denver has experienced some injuries to their offensive line this season with Dan Koppen going down in training camp, Ryan Clady being lost for the season and Orlando Franklin missing the game against Indianapolis.
But whether it is Chris Clark, Louis Vasquez or Manny Ramirez, the players they do have on the offensive line can't let Peyton Manning get pressured the way he was on Sunday night.
Robert Mathis, who leads the NFL in sacks, changed the game with his hit on Manning near the Denver end zone.
The play led to a safety but it also appeared Manning became a different player. The ball wasn't coming out of his hand the way it usually does and many of his passes wobbled through the air.
Manning was also way off target on any of his throws late in the game and would have had more than the 20 incompletions he threw if not for some circus catches by Wes Welker.
Indianapolis has provided a blueprint for the rest of the league on how to beat the Broncos. The offensive line will have to find a way to keep the elite pass-rushers away from their franchise quarterback.