Peyton Manning has compensated for sometimes-mediocre defenses with elite quarterbacking for much of his career. The Denver Broncos have been succeeding using the opposite model this year, though that formula finally failed last week.
They might need more from Manning against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday after the Broncos’ season-opening undefeated run came to an end their last time out.
Denver (7-1) still tops the league with 17.4 points allowed per game, but couldn’t stop Indianapolis when it needed to last week as Andrew Luck led the Colts to 10 fourth-quarter points for a 27-24 victory in Manning’s Indy homecoming.
The Broncos, allowing an NFL-low 274.1 yards per game, gave up 365. Manning threw for two touchdowns for the first time since Week 3, but was also intercepted twice.
He has nine TDs, 13 picks and a 75.6 quarterback rating, his worse since a 71.2 mark as a rookie in 1998.
"Obviously, our defense has done a great job all year," said Manning, 19-1 against AFC West opponents with Denver. " … You have to try and do your part offensively, and that’s all you think about."
Denver had no takeaways for the second consecutive game after recording 17 previously.
Manning is one win as a starter and three passing yards shy of surpassing Brett Favre’s records in both categories (186, 17,838).
Coach Gary Kubiak was also concerned by his team’s eight penalties for 56 yards. The Broncos’ 597 penalty yards are the second-most in the AFC.
"We’ve got something that needs to get corrected," he told the team’s official website. "We have to find a way in the second half of the season to turn that around."
Denver leads the league with 30 sacks – on pace to surpass the team record of 57 set in 1984 – but will be without sack leader DeMarcus Ware due to a back injury which could sideline him into December. Shaquil Barrett, who will start in his place, has 3 1/2 sacks and recorded a season-high nine tackles in his lone start, a 26-23 victory at Cleveland on Oct. 18.
Cornerback Aqib Talib, tops on the club with three interceptions, is also suspended for one game after poking the Colts’ Dwayne Allen in the eye. This year’s first-round pick Bradley Roby will take over Talib’s starting spot opposite Chris Harris Jr., while Kayvon Webster will fulfill Roby’s duties as nickel cornerback. Roby has 18 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups.
Ware had a sack and Talib added an interception in Denver’s 31-24 win at Kansas City on Sept. 18, the Broncos’ seventh straight in the series. Manning threw a season-high three TDs while Roby returned Jamaal Charles’ fumble 21 yards for the go-ahead TD with 27 seconds remaining.
The Chiefs (3-5) come off their bye following back-to-back victories over Pittsburgh and Detroit. Coach Andy Reid wasn’t interested in discussing Kansas City’s blown opportunity in the teams’ first meeting in September.
"They got us. I said that after the game," he said. "They won the game. That’s all that counts. You move on and you get ready for this game."
Kansas City plays three of its next four on the road and has struggled defensively away from home, surrendering 402.5 yards per game, third-most in the AFC.
The Chiefs sacked Manning three times in the first matchup and limited the Broncos to 61 rushing yards on 22 carries. Denver’s ground attack was stagnant again last week with a season-low 35 yards and ranks 28th in the league with 88.1 per game.
Charcandrick West has been a pleasant surprise in his second and third career starts in place of the injured Charles, running for 207 yards against the Steelers and Lions. He’ll look to become the first back to crack 100 rushing yards against Denver since Charles ran for 125 in Week 2.
The Chiefs haven’t lost eight straight in the series since Oct. 24, 1976-Oct. 28, 1979.