ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For quarterback
It represents the Broncos' final tune-up before the playoffs begin, and a formidable defense coming to town will help them do just that.
"They held us to 17 points last time and there were some things they did well, some things that we can do better, and it's a great test from that standpoint," Manning said. "That's what we're going to try to use this week as a chance to try to improve."
The 17-point performance was the lowest output of the season for the Broncos. Denver punted four times and attempted three field goals after going 1-of-4 in the red zone.
"I think they're even better, to tell you the truth," Manning said. "It's just their record is different than what their defense puts out there. Like I said, I can't speak for what's going on with their offense or turnovers or whatnot. I know they ran the stew out of the ball on Sunday but their active on defense, they can cover well, (defensive back Eric) Berry's playing good, (linebacker Derrick) Johnson's all over the field and they can get after the passer with four."
Linebacker Justin Houston is another playmaker on the Chiefs' defensive unit and a big part of the pass rush that Manning spoke highly of. He sacked Manning twice in Week 12 and registered four of the Chiefs' six quarterback hits.
Regardless of what type of competition Denver is up against on Sunday, Manning is looking forward to one more game in which the entire offense can continue the process of improving. They have still only had a season together, and the quarterback's meticulousness is well-documented. He and the coaching staff hope to discover something on Sunday or make a change that will have a positive impact moving into what Head Coach John Fox calls "a new season," the playoffs. A 10-game winning streak means the team is playing well, but nothing is perfect.
"We need every single opportunity that we can get in order to improve to face scenarios like we were talking about Sunday. Another chance to work on something. It's just been such a fast-break year. (Offensive Coordinator) Mike McCoy is trying to cram everything, he's trying to cram five years of experience into one year and I think he' done a heck of a job from that standpoint but every opportunity, like I've said all season, in practice, in walk through, in meetings and especially in the games - I wish we would have played more in the preseason, had those repetitions. It's a great opportunity for us and like I said, I think we're facing a tough challenge."
The Broncos' 8-point win in Kansas City five weeks ago is tied for the second-smallest margin of victory the Broncos have had all season. Due to Denver's habit for winning games by double-digits, the offense hasn't had much in-game experience facing late deficits. That part is out of Manning's control, but the team tries to make up for it by practicing situations it hasn't seen many times in games.
"We were down early in some games and came back and closed in some games, got over the hump in some games," Manning said. "So, you'd love to face every scenario, but you can't control how each game's outcome is going to go. You try to simulate game-like scenarios in practice. It's not quite the same as a game, so that's something that Coach Fox and the staff have tried to do all season long."
Even on a 10-game win streak, Manning and the offense have a full plate on their hands. They are preparing for a top-10 defense and looking to put the finishing touches on their product before carrying it into the postseason.
"I still think we have things we need to improve on and work on," Manning said. "We focus on those things in practice. It's one thing to do them in practice, you like to see the work you put in in practice carry over to the field on Sunday and hopefully we can do that this Sunday."