ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos are approaching Sunday's game against New Orleans more concerned with what they can control than what the opposition will bring to the table.
One of the biggest factors in the team's 3-3 start has been a habit of making too many self-inflicted mistakes like turnovers. Through six games, Denver's turnover ratio is minus-three, with the team's 13 giveaways tying for the fifth-most in the AFC. Eliminating such errors has been a point of emphasis throughout the week.
"We've just got to go out and do our job," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "That's the No. 1 thing week in and week out regardless of who we're playing. You can't worry about that. This is the NFL and the parity in the league is so good. The difference between winning and losing games is very small so we've got to make sure that we take care of our job first."
The Broncos' opponent Sunday is a Saints team that boasts the league's top passing attack, one that has helped New Orleans average 29.3 points per game, which ranks third in the NFL. Against such a potent offense, it's as important as ever that Denver avoids leaving points on the field.
"There's been plenty of times during this season we've gone down the field but there's one little mistake," McCoy said. "It's just something little that becomes big because you don't convert on third-and-one or you miss a protection, you miss a progression, you drop a pass. Whatever that is, it adds up over time and against a football team like the Saints with the explosive offense they have, you can't make those mistakes."
So far this season, the Broncos have shown flashes. They outscored San Diego 35-0 in the second half and have put up 79 points in fourth quarters while giving up just six. What the team hasn't been able to do is sustain a rhythm from start to finish, falling behind early four times in the first six games of 2012. The goal moving forward is to treat every quarter like the fourth.
"I think the key in any football game: you've got to play consistently for four quarters," McCoy said. "That's what we're stressing with the guys now is, 'Hey, let's take it one play at a time and play for four quarters and see what happens.' Last week we kind of laid an egg early on the first half, made some mistakes, little mistakes, the first third down, third and one, those are plays you have to make. We missed some. We had the pick-6 for a touchdown that gave them some points so we've got to go out there and just do our job for 60 minutes and see what happens."
CONTINUING TO CREATE TURNOVERS
The biggest difference from the first half to the second in the team's win over the Chargers was the turnover battle.
After each team recorded one first-half interception, the Broncos held onto the ball after halftime and forced five takeaways, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said momentum had a lot to do with the defense's ability to pile one big play on top of another down the stretch.
"The preparation and then just cutting loose and kind of, once you get one, they get two," Del Rio said. "They tend to come in bunches. Sacks and turnovers tend to come in bunches and we got going pretty good in the second half of that game. That's something we'd like to have carry over. You can't go out and play like that every week. You just don't come up with them every week. Statistically, you just know it's not going to happen. Certainly, that gave us a boost. We work hard on it. We work on taking the ball away from people and we take pride in that. I was happy to see us get that going."
Cornerback Champ Bailey said the second-half performance against San Diego is something the team will look to duplicate in the weeks to come.
"I think that's the way we've got to win every week," Bailey said. "We've got to make sure we start fast. Some teams, you're not going to be able to come back like that and we can't keep putting ourselves in that situation."
Another week, another potent offense led by a Pro-Bowl quarterback. After taking on Super-Bowl winning quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady as well as Pro Bowlers Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, Denver welcomes another one of the league's elite passers in Drew Brees to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Sunday. Against an elite offense like the Saints', Denver will need a strong offensive performance of its own to keep up.
"That's what people can say," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Every game is going to take on a different identity. Our defense knows the challenge they have against their offense. I know their defense is challenged. People are talking about their defense but all I see is what I see on tape. I see guys flying around making plays. I see (New Orleans S Malcolm) Jenkins running their receiver down at the 1-yard line, probably the biggest play of that game against Tampa, so I think both sides of the ball, there are some good matchups. That's why I think it'll be a good game."
Wide receiver Eric Decker knows that squaring off against an offense like the Saints' means the Broncos will need to be at their best from start to finish.
"I think our focus as an offense is to get to a faster start," Decker said. "We know they can score points and we have to be able to set the tempo and be more successful in the first half, eliminate turnovers and drops and score some points. That's our main focus."
The Saints have recovered from an 0-4 start to win two straight and enter Sunday's game with momentum and confidence. But running back Willis McGahee, for one, knows the Saints won't be the only team with something to prove Sunday.
"We're not getting the Saints at a bad time," McGahee said. "They're getting us at a bad time."