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Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos vs. Jaguars

DENVER -- If you're a fan who eats, sleeps and oozes all things Bronco, close your eyes and mentally rewind back two months, right after you learned that Von Miller would miss Weeks 1-6 because of a substance-abuse suspension.

What would you have taken as an acceptable outcome for those six games? A 4-2, or perhaps a 5-1 start? A good, but not great opening that forced the Broncos to confront some roster issues and make the appropriate tweaks to improve the team for the stretch run?

If you expected 6-0 against an opening schedule that included the last two world champions, then congratulations. Not only were you correct, but you were in the minority of Broncos fans.

This was a day for the bottom line. Denver moved to 6-0, and won its 17th consecutive regular-season game. The team remains in first place in the AFC West, has scored more points through six games than anyone else in league history, and leads the league with a plus-107 point differential. The last time the Broncos had a triple-digit differential after six games, they won a world championship, and the last five teams with that distinction made it to the Super Bowl.

"A win is a win," said tight end Julius Thomas.

And with that, a glance back at the three keys pointed out Saturday:


Mindset wasn't the problem Sunday. The Broncos exercised due diligence in practice and meetings this week; they said the right things in interviews; they didn't look ahead. But execution was an issue. That bore itself out in three turnovers, including a pair of fumbled snaps and a low one that could have been lost, and four dropped passes and a fumble by Broncos running backs.

"Mistakes are mistakes. You don't want to see them," said Knowshon Moreno, whose day reflected the pendulum extremes for the offense: he had three touchdowns, but also had a pair of drops. "We put too many balls on the ground. That's going to get you beat."

Also crucial was the energy at which the Jaguars played.

"I just think they play with great energy. Sometimes we didn't match that," said Thomas. "I think there were some possessions we came out and we were out there but we weren't playing with the intensity that they were playing with, and it showed."


Although the Jaguars battered the Broncos with short outs and slants, Denver did not let wide receiver Justin Blackmon loose for anything deep. His longest catch covered just 23 yards, and the Broncos' ability to limit explosive passes forced the Jaguars to rely on short to intermediate routes, which often diced up the defense.

"They definitely came out with a whole new game plan," said cornerback Chris Harris. "We know each week, everybody's going to give us their best. We get everybody's best plays each week. That's something that we have to be prepared for and eliminate the big plays."

Because they did, the defense bought time to stabilize and stiffen when the Jaguars reached scoring range. Jacksonville got just 13 of a possible 35 points out of drives that crossed the Denver 40-yard-line, and averaged just 3.67 yards per play inside the Denver 40, compared with 5.83 yards per play on the 47 snaps run outside of it.


The Broncos did, but that didn't prove costly. After allowing the Jaguars to march 80 yards in nine plays to a touchdown early in the second half, the defense tightened up, with Malik Jackson's stellar series -- two sacks that bookended a tackle of Maurice Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss -- put them back into neutral.

Athough the Jaguars hung around, they didn't run an offensive play on which they had a chance to take the lead after going three-and-out on their first series. As has been typical of the last six weeks, the Broncos did what they had to do, when they had to do it, and became the first team since the 2007 Patriots to win their first six games by at least 16 points each time.