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Denver Broncos’ answer to current struggles might be more Peyton Manning

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(USA Today Sports Images)

The Denver Broncos would like to be more balanced than they showed in the dress rehearsal third preseason game, one would assume.

Peyton Manning threw 29 times in the first 25 minutes against the Rams on Saturday. He's one of the best in the NFL right now, one of the best ever, but that's still extreme.

The problem for the Broncos is the passing game is one of the few things that has looked sharp this August. So maybe they rely heavily on Manning's arm until everything else gets figured out.

The Broncos' young running backs have to be making the coaching staff nervous. The defense is going to really miss outside linebacker Von Miller for six games.

The preseason means nothing, right? Then maybe the fact that the Broncos' starters have been outscored 53-17 in the first halves of their last two games isn't a reason for concern.

Denver should be running out of patience with running backs Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball. Hillman fumbled for the third time this preseason. For the second time, the opponent recovered and returned it for a touchdown. Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree (who had a fantastic night) stripped Hillman, scooped it up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown. Ball has had his own troubles this preseason, most notably a missed blitz pickup last week against Seattle that led to Manning getting drilled – the biggest no-no in the Broncos offense. Ball did shake off a slow start on Saturday and he had a strong 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter. But safe and average veteran Knowshon Moreno might suddenly look more appealing to the Broncos.

In the first half against the Rams, Manning was 25-of-34 for 234 yards. Yes, in just one half. Of a preseason game. No matter how great Manning is, that's simply not a pace the Broncos can ask their 37-year-old quarterback to keep up. But will there be a choice?

Denver's banged-up defense hasn't been great this preseason, and won't be better without Miller. The special teams coverage has been atrocious. An 81-yard punt return by Rams rookie Tavon Austin set up a 3-yard touchdown on St. Louis' opening drive. The Rams led 20-10 at halftime.

It seems like the Broncos could be involved in some shootouts, especially when Miller is out, and that puts even more pressure on Manning's shoulders.

"Everybody has to step up, there’s no question about it," Manning said during a sideline interview with CBS. "When a player as good and talented as Von Miller is not playing, everybody’s got to answer the bell."

Even though preseason results mean nothing, Denver can't be happy with how August has gone. It looks like the great Peyton Manning will have to put the team on his shoulders until the team works through its issues, however long that takes.

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