ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **With his quarterback's return to full participation in practice generating its share of attention on Thursday, Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase kept his assessment of Peyton Manning short and to the point.
"He was good," Gase said. "He was his normal self."
Manning's return to practice after sitting out of yesterday's session was a welcomed sight for a Broncos team looking to rebound from a 39-33 loss to the Colts, Denver's first loss of the season.
And as Gase reflected on Sunday night's setback in Indianapolis – an evening where the offense went 5-for-16 on third down, well below the unit's NFL-best 52.8 percent conversion rate on third down this season, and where the Broncos committed three turnovers – he noted that there were certain aspects of the offense's attack that he would have liked to have executed differently.
"We probably should have (run) the ball a little more, I did a poor job of that," Gase said. "Tried to help out our front guys probably a couple of protection things I would have changed going into that game. But (Colts LB) Robert Mathis is a good player. I've seen him play for a long time. What he did – it's not surprising. We probably should have done a better job helping out our tackles."
Mathis and the Colts defensive front generated constant pressure throughout the game, sacking Manning four times and registering 10 quarterback hits – something that Gase said the Broncos will look to eschew moving forward.
"Absolutely," Gase answered when asked whether there are things the Broncos offense can do to prevent Manning from being hit. "There's things we can do whether it's with our backs, tight ends, our personnel groups, play calling – there's a lot of things we can do to help him out and that's what we're going to do moving forward."
Fixing the Fumbling
Gase also addressed the team's fumbling issues – which resurfaced against the Colts, most crucially when running back Ronnie Hillman lost a fumble at the Colts' 3-yard line with 3:03 remaining in the game. Gase pointed out that practicing against a defense that will do everything it can to try to take the football away should help improve the ball security and confidence of Hillman and the rest of the offense.
"You just keep working him at practice and probably have a lot of guys going after it, especially on defense," Gase said. "They know when you're laying it on the ground, they're going to try to help you by pulling it out in practice. And it's got to be a rep thing. And we've got to keep working on it."
The Broncos have lost a league-high 10 fumbles this season, a statistic that Gase noted needs to change as the season progresses.
"The way that we're fumbling, it's just unacceptable," he said. "We've got to get this fixed and that's been a big focus for us again this week. Hopefully we can restart everything; we've got a fresh week, and get to zero turnovers."
In turning his attention from last week's game to the Broncos' upcoming opponent, Gase noted that he anticipates the Redskins defense to be stingier than their statistical ranking – especially up front, where the Redskins have registered 18 sacks on the season.
"That front seven is tough," Gase said. "I know statistically people look at them, 'Oh they're in the back half.' But they got behind a few times and they were playing catch up, and sometimes you get hurt on defense. They're a tough team to run the ball against."
The Redskins' tendency to mix in a variety of defensive looks was also circled by Gase as a challenge that the Broncos will have to overcome.
"That front seven is good and that backend – they've done a good job for the most part. That's going to be a big challenge for us because (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Jim) Haslett does a good job of mixing up defenses. We're going to have to be on it as far as what our assignment is."
Gase also briefly divulged into the offensive mindset of Redskins Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan – who has been long renowned for his offensive expertise – noting that he watched significant amounts of film from Shanahan's tenure as Broncos Head Coach and that he admired Shanahan's ability to expose defensive flaws.
"I think the one thing I noticed when I actually got here, we were able to watch a lot of '08, '07 tape, and the way he would attack the defense was impressive," Gase said. "And you'd see the same look – you knew what he was trying to do. He'd get in slot and you'd be like 'Wow, if it's a 65-play game, 40 of them were in that formation.' He knows how to expose your problem and he does a great job of executing whatever play they called."