Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos showed they were indeed ready to take their game to another level, when it came to speed of the offense.
As promised all offseason, they put the pedal to the metal.
Manning and company ran a whopping 49 plays in the first half Saturday against the St. Louis Rams, garnering an impressive 290 yards and churning up over 19 of the 30 minutes of game time. The Rams, by comparison, only managed to pick up 110 yards of offense in just over 11 minutes of possession. Highlighted by Manning's 6-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas and a team-high six catches for 66 yards by Eric Decker, it was a dominating performance statistically by Denver's first team in Week 3 preseason action.
However, yards aren't points, and as was the case in Denver's previous preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, the speed of Denver's offense didn't help them offset their succumbing to costly mistakes.
An echo of last week's Ronnie Hillman fumble reawakened Broncos fans' frustrations, as Hillman's inability to protect the football led to an opponents' defensive return touchdown once again. This fumble, recovered by Rams rookie Alec Ogletree, didn't get returned 106 yards, but that hardly mattered on the scoreboard.
Then a Peyton Manning interception late in the half (another play made by Ogletree) left the Broncos with another big hole at halftime: 20 to 10.
It would be up to Brock Osweiler and a mix of starters and backups to make up the difference; luckily they were up to the task.
Osweiler was magnificent operating the first team offense, marching 79 yards down the field in 4:39, capped off by a Montee Ball one-yard run, to bring the Broncos within three points. After Matt Prater kicked a 54-yard field goal to tie the game, a stifling defensive effort led to a Rams punt in the fourth quarter. Undrafted rookie linebacker Lerentee McCray blocked the punt, setting up the Broncos deep in Rams territory. RB Lance Ball was able to eek the nose of the football into the end zone, and the Broncos took a late 27-20 lead.
Then disaster suck.
Osweiler and center Steve Vallos fumble an exchange with less than two minutes left in the game, giving the Rams another chance. QB Kellen Clemens was able to hit his man in the end zone, but the subsequent two-point attempt (mercifully avoiding a potential preseason overtime) failed. The Broncos held on for a 27-26 victory.
The home crowd clearly had a positive effect on Denver's efforts this week, but the mistakes proved costly again. How would you grade the Broncos in Week 3, overall?