Broncos stumbling out of tunnel at halftime

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Peyton Manning didn't take a single second-half snap in the preseason, and he's barely breaking a sweat after halftime in the regular season.

Both the Colts and Chiefs have kept the five-time MVP watching, waiting and warming up for good chunks of the third and fourth quarters as they turned double-digit deficits into nail-biters.

"It's part of football," Manning said. "I've been in games like that where you get excited on third-and-long, start warming up, ready to get out there. The defense out there, they were maybe bending a little, but not breaking."

Manning has been a machine in the first half so far, driving the Broncos (2-0) to scores on seven of nine possessions, not counting kneel-downs.

All six of his touchdown throws have come before the break, however.

After halftime, he's had just one TD drive and one field goal drive in eight series, excluding two victory formations.

These Jekyll and Hyde halves are certainly disconcerting, but the Broncos insist it's also just the nature of the NFL.

"As I mentioned last night, there's not a lot of 58-0 games in this league," coach John Fox said Monday. "It's all a concern but when you look at the first quarter of our season, every team is a 10-win team. One's the defending Super Bowl champs and we trot to their place this week."

Cornerback Chris Harris called Sunday's showdown at Seattle a barometer, although he insisted he knows exactly where the Broncos stand right now.

"Hey, we're 2-0 going on the road trying to be 3-0 and that's the best place you can be: undefeated," Harris said. "And we have lofty goals and all the fans have lofty goals for us. They expect us to kill everybody every week. You all (reporters) probably do, too. But it's the NFL. Teams are coming to play us like it's the Super Bowl every week."

Fox isn't about to grade the quality of the Broncos' wins, both by seven points — much less than fans and bookmakers expected.

"I don't think anybody's playing their best football of the year after Week 2. And I'd say it's a fair assessment that we aren't, either," Fox said. "That's something that you try to do is improve every day and every week. So, hopefully we're playing our best football well into the playoffs."

A big part of the problem is that Denver's defense is allowing third-down conversions more than half the time.

"We've got to be more consistent on third down and not letting guys run out of the pocket and make plays on us," DeMarcus Ware said. "We have to get better at that because going against Russell Wilson, that's what he does best."

Even when Manning does take the field, he's seeing too many yellow flags and dropped passes sending him and his record-setting offense right back to the bench.

Manning has been on the field for just 21:59 in the second half so far. He's spent the other 38:21 looking on with mixture of anticipation and anxiety.

"That's how teams are going to play us," Harris said. "They want to keep the ball away from Peyton and it's our job to get off the field."

Manning's six TD passes, putting him three shy of joining Brett Favre in the 500-TD club, have ultimately stood up, allowing the Broncos to become the first team since the 2009 Atlanta Falcons to open a season with consecutive wins over teams that won 11 or more games the year before.

Now come the Seahawks, who ripped them 43-8 in the Super Bowl. But Fox said it's not like the Broncos are more amped this week than any other.

"Well, hopefully you get jacked up to play every week," Fox said. "Because if you don't, usually you get jacked up."

Notes: Fox didn't have an update on LBs Von Miller (strained groin) or Lerentee McCray (knee) but did say McCray's injury isn't season-ending. ... The Broncos blamed a rash of offside penalties on Chiefs C Rodney Hudson: "The squatting and turning of head fairly abruptly is something we'll make sure the league knows about," Fox said. ... Fox also had this to say about Ware's sack and strip of Alex Smith late in the fourth quarter that was overturned and ruled an incompletion: "Without being critical, I go back to the 100 guys in a bar. If they all say it's a fumble, it's a fumble."


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