Peyton Manning points the finger at himself

He’s shown plenty of arm strength and an ability to bounce back

after a hard hit. Now, Peyton Manning and the rest of the Denver

Broncos’ sputtering offense need to work out the kinks.

In seven drives with Manning under center, they’ve scored just

one touchdown and turned the ball over four times.

”We’re just lucky it’s preseason,” wide receiver Brandon

Stokley said. ”We’ll get back to work and we’ll work hard, like

we’ve worked this whole offseason and training camp, and we’ll get

better.”

The good news is that it’s the offense that’s flimsy, not his

neck or arm.

Manning is deciphering defenses as well as ever, getting the

ball out as quickly as he always has and he almost always makes the

right read. He’s completed 67 percent of his passes and the Broncos

(No. 10 in the AP Pro32) are moving the chains better than they

ever did with Tim Tebow.

Yet, there’s still lots of work to do.

Five months into his comeback in Colorado, Manning’s timing with

his targets isn’t where he’d like it to be. And the three teammates

he has the most rhythm with – wide receiver Eric Decker and former

Colts teammates Stokley and Jacob Tamme – have all made big

blunders in the Broncos’ two preseason games.

Stokley rounded out a route that led to an interception at the

goal line in Chicago, and Decker and Tamme dropped passes that

stalled a promising 2-minute drive inside the Seattle 10.

”It’s frustrating not to be able to finish,” Manning said.

All three of his intended targets took the blame, as did tight

end Joel Dreessen for a ball that sailed way over his head and was

easily picked off by Seahawks safety Jeron Johnson.

”I’ve got to find a way to make that catch, honestly,”

Dreessen said. ”I kind of stuck my hand up there and I was like,

`I don’t know if I can reach it.’ I looked like I gator-armed

it.”

Manning’s other interception Saturday night came when left guard

Zane Beadles failed to engage defensive end Red Bryant, who reached

both hands up and deflected Manning’s pass into the arms of

linebacker K.J. Wright at the Seattle 9.

Ever the gentleman, Manning upbraided only himself.

”At the end of the day, they’re interceptions,” Manning said.

”The quarterback signs the check on every ball he throws. There’s

an old saying that the most important part of every play is to

possess the ball at the end of that play. That’s the quarterback’s

job. I have to do a better job of that.”

So for all those radio callers finding fault with Manning, he’s

with you.

”Two interceptions. Two in the red zone, two weeks in a row.

Just can’t have it,” Manning said. ”Tipped balls, whatever it is.

Can’t have it. Got to find a way to protect the ball better, ensure

we get some kind of points when we’re down there in the red

zone.”

Coach John Fox appreciates that accountability.

”You get in that position and you get the fingers pointed at

yourself when things don’t go the right way, that’s kind of the

right way to point fingers,” Fox said. ”And so, he gets that. I

think that’s who he is and that does help spread throughout the

football team.”

The Broncos (1-1) hope to clean things up Sunday night against

San Francisco (1-1) in what is expected to be Manning’s final dress

rehearsal for the Sept. 9 opener against Pittsburgh.

Despite all the hiccups, there are some positives as Manning

makes his comeback from a nerve injury in his neck that sidelined

him all of last season and led to his departure from Indianapolis

in March: he’s completed 20 of 30 passes for 221 yards and on

Saturday night, he showed the no-huddle offense at altitude can be

the Broncos’ calling card.

Manning played the entire first half and gave the Broncos a 10-9

lead at the break despite three turnovers. He looked great on a

2-minute drive, but that stalled when Tamme dropped a wide-open

touchdown pass 6 seconds before halftime following a drop by Decker

and a 15-yard penalty on center J.D. Walton.

”You try to get it out of your system before the season

starts,” Decker said. ”It’s a good time to work out the

kinks.”

And to get the chemistry just right.

”It’s still a work in progress,” Stokley said. ”We know that,

and we’re working hard every day in practice trying to be perfect,

and that’s what good offenses do.

”It takes time. We’re trying to get there.”

Notes: The Broncos got a boost Monday when S Quinton Carter

(knee, hamstring) practiced for the first time since July 27,

rookie LB Danny Trevathan returned from a sprained ankle and CB

Tracy Porter returned from an illness.

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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