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Broncos looking to be ruthless finishers


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --**After the Broncos went up 24-0 on the Colts on Sunday, a choppy second half that saw the lead cut to seven by game's end wasn't the most encouraging finish.

But as a whole, the victory over Indy, who is coming off back-to-back 11-5 seasons and two playoff appearances, wasn't something to frown about.

"I don't think it was disappointment," Head Coach John Fox said on Monday. "Like I told the team, you never make excuses for Ws in this league."

"It's hard to win in this league. You're competing against 31 other teams that are the best in the world at what they do. So you take it one week at a time, try to stay even keel, and we'll make the corrections. We'll learn from this."

Though perhaps difficult to enact, the lesson to be learned isn't exactly complicated.

"We just know we've got to try to step on a team's throat early," Chris Harris Jr. said Thursday. "When we've got them down, we've got to step on their throat in the game from there, not let them hang around."

The defense cooled off some in the second half, allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns. But the offense -- which cruised for 17 first downs and 24 points on four first-half possessions (excluding a kneeldown) -- sputtered on several drives, punting on five of seven series.

In 2013, Peyton Manning's attack was usually the unit that extinguished opponents' hopes of a comeback, piling on points to score more than 35 on 10 different occasions. Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said Thursday that the quiet second half against Indianapolis wasn't a product of trying to ease up after halftime.

"I think our history speaks for itself as far as we're not one to pull off," he said. "Are we working on some things, trying to run the ball a little bit? Yeah. We were still trying to throw it."

"Some things that didn't go our way in that second half, but in no means will we ever pull off the gas. We're going to try to score as many points until the clock is at zero."

Like it usually does, the winning result heals all and the Broncos can move on to the game against the Chiefs looking to be more lethal the next time they jump out to a big lead. If the experience can help promote a killer instinct in the future, that would be a bonus.

"It's probably good that some of that stuff happened in the second half," Gase said. "We got the win still. Now we have to make sure we go back and clean up a few things, especially toward the end of the game."

On the defensive side of the ball, the team's conditioning should only improve, especially as Harris, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware work their ways back into playing shape after surgeries to repair injuries suffered in 2013. Miller played 75 percent of the snaps on Sunday, while Ware played 68 percent and Harris played 53 percent. As those numbers climb, it would be fair to expect a more consistent performance from the unit.

But in a league that puts increasing emphasis on the passing game, second-half comebacks against defenses playing conservative coverages have become almost commonplace, as evidenced by several other games in Week 1. There doesn't seem to be a clear answer to that problem, other than good old hard work.

"You just have to keep playing," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "There are talented players, talented quarterbacks, receivers, coaches. So yeah, you just have to keep playing."

"I think the fact that we were able to make some key plays in the game -- big stops in the red zone, and a key fourth-down stop where [Bradley] Roby got the break up -- those are big moments for a defense to come through for the team and so proud that we were able to get that done."

Though the second-half letdown against the Colts was just one game, the Broncos seem determined to establish a permanent mentality to cap off wins emphatically in the future.

"I know everyone in this locker room is saying the same thing: We not only have to finish ballgames, we have to finish the season," Emmanuel Sanders said. "If we make it to the Super Bowl, we've got to finish. The whole mindset is to finish."

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