|Peyton Manning and the Broncos have figured out the second half. If they ever get the first half right, they could be a title threat. (Andrew Mason)|
If the Broncos can finally figure out how to be more consistent from one half to another, then perhaps they can learn how to put together a winning streak.
The Broncos' pattern hasn't been a clear win-one, lose-one this season, since they had a two-game skid with losses to Atlanta and Houston in September. But it's been 11 games -- including playoffs -- since the Broncos cobbled together consecutive wins, which came in a six-week stretch last year in which Tim Tebow started and the defense allowed 16.7 points per game.
"Thanks for bringing that up," Broncos WR Brandon Stokley said when the lack of consecutive wins was broached in the locker room Wednesday. "No, we haven't done that, but it'd be a good time to start this week."
In losses to the Falcons, Texans and Patriots and the Week 6 win at San Diego, the Broncos were able to close the gap in the second half of each game, not just because their offense was prolific -- Denver has averaged more than 21 points per second half this season -- but because its defense strung together consecutive stops to sustain a comeback.
Whether Denver can repeat that against the Saints is questionable, since the Saints have scored 66 points their past two games and haven't been held below 24 all season.
"This is not a team you want to fall that far behind (against) because they have that potential to keep scoring and keep extending that lead," said Broncos QB Peyton Manning.
Two decades ago, then-Buccaneers coach Sam Wyche tried to remedy his team's second-half ills by practicing a halftime break, stopping practice midway through for 12 minutes before returning to work. Such a wacky tactic isn't as logical when the issue is slow starts.
"All we've got to do is get better. We can't really worry about first half, second half. We've got to start fast, finish fast. The past is the past," said S Rahim Moore.
The solution probably lies in avoiding the sloppiness that has plagued the Broncos. In their last three games, they lost three potential first-half touchdowns when wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker either fumbled or stumbled in the open field after long receptions.
"We've turned the ball over at times in scoring position, and you kind of say, 'Boy, if that didn't happen, we could have gotten some points there and gotten off to a faster start,'" Manning said. "So you have to be careful of over-analyzing it and all of a sudden changing what you're doing, because I think we all are close.
"We've had some chances to put some points up early and then all of a sudden, next thing you know, it's 7-7 instead of 14-7 for us. It changes the way our defense can play. So it's just about being a little sharper, a little better on the execution, protecting the ball better -- lots of those little things that if we can do those better, we think that can make a difference."
Injury notes: Every Bronco practiced Wednesday, but CB Tracy Porter was limited. Porter did not make the trip to San Diego after coming down with an illness that kept him from making the flight.
Porter said Monday the coaches wanted to "ease me back in so I can progress each day," so being limited Wednesday wasn't a surprise.
Six other Broncos were listed on the injury report, but were not held out of any part of practice: S Mike Adams (knee), CB Chris Harris (ankle), G Chris Kuper (forearm), TE Jacob Tamme (hip), LB Danny Trevathan (thumb) and WR Matt Willis (hamstring).