Broncos offense going through growing pains

Peyton Manning wasn't having any nonsense Wednesday -- "nonsense" in this case being any questions about the effectiveness of himself and the offense as a whole in the wake of a four-turnover performance Monday. At least on the surface, the 15-year veteran's confidence remained intact.

"It's not deterred at all, if you're insinuating that coming off the game," Manning said.

But going forward, the performance was a reminder that the offense is still a work in progress. A near-flawless final three quarters in Week 1 offered an indication that it was on -- or even ahead -- of schedule. The Falcons' success at disguising coverages and forcing mistakes not only was a wake-up call, but a template for future foes to follow -- including some daunting games against Houston, New England and resurgent San Diego in the next four games.

"The key is you want to win games as you are continuing to learn," Manning said. "We did that in the first game. We didn't do that this week. But I think there is that process of 3-4 defense, four-down defense, you know, different type of defense this week.

"We're learning, making those adjustments with different teammates, on the run and trying to find a way to get a win at the same time."

Manning didn't want to entertain any chatter about his three first-quarter interceptions -- "we're kind of past that at this point," he maintained -- nor did he believe that post-surgical arm strength had any bearing on the errant throws.

"Who's been talking about that?" Manning asked when the subject was broached. "Yeah, I am what I am, it is what it is, whatever expression is appropriate for that. So, I don't know what to tell you."

With Denver's offense still enduring growing pains, facing the league's top-ranked defense through two weeks offers no favors. Houston achieved its lofty status by drawing a pair of foes with inexperienced quarterbacks (Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert) in the first two games, so facing longtime nemesis Manning on Sunday represents at least as much a challenge for its defense as the Texans pose to Manning.

The Broncos can do many things and get by offensively. They can rely on short timing passes and throws outside the hashmarks, as they did in the final three quarters Monday, when the offense stabilized after its early hiccups. They can hand off to Willis McGahee, who on Monday had his eighth 100-yard game since joining the Broncos, matching Houston's Arian Foster for the most in the league the last two seasons. They can even have drives that stall after a first down or two.

What they can't have, however, is giveaways. That's what still rankles them as they move past Week 2 -- the notion that the loss was their own fault and could have easily been avoided, in spite of the challenges the Falcons and their raucous atmosphere provided.

"You just want to possess the ball a little bit longer, not put the defense in such a bad hole," said Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley. "If it's a seven-, eight-play drive and you have to punt, hopefully we pin them deep and the defense ends up getting the ball back real quick, but we can't put the defense in a bind like we did."