ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Don't tell Peyton Manning that Tuesday's work against the Houston Texans was just a practice without full pads. At times, the intensity spiked to game-day levels, and in the quarterback's estimation, the Broncos didn't match Houston's proficiency or fire.
"I thought our offense stunk today. I thought the (Texans) defense totally kicked our butt," said Manning.
"We did," said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, "Hey, I don't look at it like he does. But we didn't do our best. I'm not going to say, 'stunk.'"
Regardless of the description, the performance wasn't good enough, and was capped by a two-minute period that ended with a fourth-down stop when Texans safety D.J. Swearinger broke up two consecutive passes, to Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme.
"They came in and did what they were supposed to do. They put pressure [on us]. They stopped us on a couple third downs, fourth downs and two-minute (drills)," said Thomas.
Added Manning: "We played Sunday, we were off yesterday, so we didn't have a ton of preparation for this practice. So with the game Sunday, the schedule just didn't allow us a lot of time. We didn't execute well," Manning said.
But it was not an excuse.
"I just call it like I see it," he added. "To have a pretty low-average practice you've got to call it a low-average practice."
The offensive performance is where today's Five Thoughts begins.
- Examples of the offense's lack of crispness Monday included a Kareem Jackson interception of a Manning-to-Thomas attempt in one-on-one drills, a missed deep pass to Welker in the two-minute drill period, and multiple breakdowns that saw the pocket collapse around Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert.
"We've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and hopefully be even better on Saturday than we were last week," Manning said.
- Manning mentioned the lack of lead time following Sunday's 34-0 win over the San Francisco 49ers, and that had an impact in the decision to conduct practice in shorts instead of the full-pad work originally planned.
"We were a day behind them as far as the recovery," said Head Coach John Fox. The Texans played Atlanta on Saturday, one day before the Broncos swamped the 49ers.
And it was healthy for the Broncos to receive a bit of an awakening after a win in which little went awry.
"Coming off that game, a lot of guys were happy about it. But coming out today against the Houston Texans, we didn't do so well. That says a lot," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "I don't know what it was, but I think as a group of offense and defense, we didn't do too well, especially coming off a 34-0 win. Even if it was a preseason game, I think we did a great job Sunday and not so good today."
- Despite the frustrating day overall, the offense closed with a touchdown in a two-minute period in which it took over at the defense's 30-yard-line, down five points, with a five-point deficit and no timeouts. The offense overcame a false-start penalty to score via an 18-yard Manning-to-Thomas touchdown on a post route. Ronnie Hillman had some solid running lanes, and Andre Caldwell caught multiple passes.
- The Broncos defense matched Houston's intensity, which was evident during the one-on-one pass rush period. Von Miller won a pair of one-on-one duels with quickness to the outside, and Malik Jackson, Terrance Knighton and Shaquil Barrett also had dominant moments. Miller beat Texans tackles Duane Brown and Derek Newton with inside and outside moves. Barrett, who played extensively Sunday, made quick work of Houston rookie Matt Feller, giving him a shove in the chest, which allowed him to get Feller off balance and blow past him to the inside.
The aggression also showed in the two-minute drill work at the end of practice. The first series ended when Aqib Talib intercepted a "Hail Mary" pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. The second period could have twice ended with interceptions, but both were called back for penalties. The second interception, by Omar Bolden at the goal line, was nullified by a holding call against T.J. Ward. He protested, and soon another flag flew. After that, the horn blew, leaving the series unresolved.
- For Chris Clark, it's all about getting his legs set. When he does, he's nearly impossible to move back, even for Houston's All Pro J.J. Watt, who was held back by Clark in the one-on-one pass-rush period.
Watt's presence as a 3-4 defensive end provides a test along the line, as he's more likely to line up against a guard than a tackle. When he grappled with right guard Louis Vasquez, the two ended up in a stalemate more often than not -- which was a win for the Broncos defense as a whole. For No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Clady offers his sternest test to date as a pro. But Clowney is also a rigorous test for Clady, who held off the rookie more often than not, but was beaten late in practice for what would have been a sack in a game situation.