ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Denver's dominating defense leads the league in several categories, including one that's disturbing to coach Gary Kubiak: 16 personal fouls.
He's warning his players their penchant for penalties is earning them a bad reputation with the refs, one where they're "not going to get the benefit of the doubt."
Perhaps a case in point came at a critical moment Sunday at Indianapolis, when linebacker Danny Trevathan was whistled for a questionable holding call on a chip-shot field goal in the final minute. That call allowed the Colts to take a knee, keep Peyton Manning on the sideline and hand the Broncos (7-1) their first loss of the season.
Sandwiched around that call, which Kubiak turned into the league as one he disagreed with, were a pair of personal fouls on star cornerback Aqib Talib that resulted in his suspension without pay for Sunday's game against Kansas City (3-5).
So far, Denver's defense, which leads the league in several major categories, including scoring, yards and sacks, has gotten dinged seven times for unnecessary roughness, five times for roughing the passer and four times for unsportsmanlike conduct. (Plus, they had a personal foul on special teams for fair catch interference).
The Broncos feel their sometimes undisciplined play and selfishness could be subjecting them to borderline flags on other, clean plays.
"I told the players that you're not going to get the benefit of the doubt sometimes ... because you start to get reputations in this league," Kubiak said. "It's something that we have to change. I know one thing, I don't want to lose the way that we're playing defense ... but I do definitely want to correct and cut down on the penalties."
Linebacker Brandon Marshall said the trick is to maintain a nastiness that's come to define Denver's defense without going over the line so much.
"You have to be smart because they're watching us now," Marshall said. "Never take away aggression but be smart. We all know the rules. And we can all play within the rules."
Marshall said Trevathan's yellow flag on the field goal -- which put a sour note to his career-best 19-tackle performance -- is a red flag that Denver's proclivity for penalties has caught up to them: "To me, that means they're watching us extra closely," Marshall said. "They're anticipating the flag."
Defensive end Malik Jackson, who's been whistled for his share of 15-yard penalties, said it's not like the officials are out to get the Broncos.
"I don't think it's like, `Oh, these Denver Broncos are Enemy No. 1.' I think it's more that the refs come into the game and say, `OK, this team is real aggressive, so we're going to have to maybe just watch them a little bit,'" Jackson said.
The Broncos' opponents know they're an aggressive bunch that sometimes crosses the line.
"Listen, that's their style, that's the way they play, and you can't take that away from them," said Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. "That's the aggression. You play right up to the whistle, and sometimes you play through the echo of the whistle. You just have to know that going into the ballgames. You have to keep your eyes moving and protect yourself that way."
The one thing the Broncos don't want to do in trying to trim their penalties is dial back their aggression.
"As soon as you do that, then you're playing on your heels," Marshall said. "You take away aggression, you're not playing as good as you were before."
Even as they focus on getting fewer flags, Jackson sees more 15-yard penalties in Denver's future, suggesting, "We're going to push the envelope. But that's the defense we have. That's the defense we put together."
NOTES: Kubiak indicated Thursday that OLB DeMarcus Ware (back) will be out for a while when he said backup Shaq Barrett, "is going to play more than he's ever played, so we're going to find out a lot about him here over the course of the next few weeks." ... Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) missed practice again, but Peyton Manning (foot) returned to work after missing Wednesday's workout.