ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) John Elway said there'd be days like this.
The Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-GM cautioned fans and fantasy owners alike back in August that Denver's offense was ''going to be a work in progress'' and ''we're not going to be kicking on all cylinders'' right away.
An offense of blended concepts from two of the NFL's beautiful minds has gotten off to a rocky start even though the Broncos (2-0) haven't.
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Still, the Broncos are once again atop the AFC West thanks to seven takeaways, two clutch fourth-quarter drives from Peyton Manning and two defensive gems in the final minute against Baltimore and Kansas City.
''One word. Resilience,'' said Emmanuel Sanders, whose second touchdown catch tied it with 36 seconds left Thursday night before cornerback Brady Roby returned Jamaal Charles' fumble 21 yards for another score with 27 seconds left to cap a stunning 31-24 victory over the Chiefs.
Yet, Manning has found it difficult to run Gary Kubiak's roll-outs and he's been under ferocious pressure behind a line in which NFL novices Ty Sambrailo and Matt Paradis sometimes look better than Pro Bowlers Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez.
The running backs are also getting stuffed, averaging 2.8 yards a carry and 65 yard a game.
That's not nearly enough to set up the play action pass or take the heat off the 39-year-old QB who has already been sacked seven times.
That puts Manning on pace for 56 sacks, which would obliterate his career high of 29 set in 2001. At this rate, he'll surpass that figure not long after his toddler twins go trick-or-treating.
Denver has had to ditch the hand-off in its first two games to get things going but that's not a sustainable solution. Kubiak was particularly irked by a second-quarter sequence Thursday night Kansas City in which the Broncos managed a yard on second-and-2 and then were stuffed on third and fourth down at the Chiefs 22.
''I'm going to demand that we be a physical football team and that we line up and can get a yard,'' Kubiak said Friday. ''I'm not going to run away from that, regardless of what happens. We're going to work through that and get it done.''
A banged-up C.J. Anderson (2.3 yards) and Ronnie Hillman (3.6) have both had a tough time, but Kubiak said, ''we're going to continue to play them both and I think there are some times as a back when things are not good that you've still got to find a way to make things happen.''
A better ground game, Kubiak said, will open things up downfield for Pro Bowl receivers Sanders and Demaryius Thomas and free up tight ends Owen Daniels and Virgil Green to run routes rather than stay in and help block.
The tight ends are a staple in Kubiak's offense but ''keeping our quarterback upright is of the utmost importance, so there's kind of a double-edged sword there,'' he said.
Mathis said the problems along the line are technical and therefore fixable, and Anderson, a Pro Bowler last year, said he'll get going, too.
''I don't blame my (sprained) ankle or my (sprained) toe. I don't blame the play calling. I don't blame the O-line. I don't blame anybody but myself,'' Anderson said. ''I'll get it done. I'll find it. I'm a big-time player. I have high confidence in my ability, so I believe I can go out there and make it happen.''
Manning has averaged just 16.88 sacks per season over his career thanks to his defensive deciphering skills and anticipation throws that are rendered moot without good protection.
He has looked his best in the 2-minute offense when he goes back to running the no-huddle, hurry-up offense.
Asked if he'd call for more no-huddle, hurry-up drives, Kubiak said the Broncos still have to ''find a way to run the ball better'' even in the 2-minute drill.
''We're never going to run away from what our quarterback does best,'' Kubiak said, ''but we've got to find a way to be physical as a football team.''
Notes: Kubiak gave game balls to ILB Brandon Marshall, who caused Charles' fumble in the final minute, and Manning. ''This guy took some (guff) this week,'' Kubiak told his players before delivering the keepsake to Manning, who joined Brett Favre in the 70,000-yard club on the same night he snapped a career-long 106-pass drought streak without a TD. ... Manning's three TDs were his most in his last eight games.
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