Broncos spend week cooking up humble pie

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are times when Denver Broncos head coach John Fox is fond of telling his team it’s “better to undersell and overproduce."

And after a couple of preseason games when the Broncos produced plenty against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers -- two of the NFC’s expected power brokers in the coming season -- they have spent the past few days this week working the undersell. And working it hard.

After a Tuesday practice against the Houston Texans, quarterback Peyton Manning said the team’s offense “stunk" and that the Texans "did their jobs a lot better than we did."

And after Wednesday’s practice, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said “nobody is patting themselves on the back."

The Broncos will have the third, and final, practice against the Texans on Thursday. The two teams will then face each other Saturday in Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the third preseason game for both teams. No team in the league is surrendering fewer points than the Broncos this preseason -- 8.0 per game after the eighth preseason shutout in franchise history Sunday -- and the team is eighth in the league in scoring at 28.0 point per game.

Manning has thrown all of five incompletions, and Denver's three quarterbacks have passer ratings of 116.9 (Zac Dysert), 106.8 (Manning) and 97.1 (Brock Osweiler).

So, what’s up with all of the dark clouds? Why no smiley face stickers?

“It’s preseason, you want to get your work in, get everybody on the same page and get ready for the season," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “It’s all about getting ready for Indianapolis in that first game and going week to week from there. You want to play like you can in those preseason games, but lots of teams do great things in the preseason and don’t do it in the regular season; we want to be a team that does great things in the regular season."

Manning called it “staying even-keeled" and “keeping a humble attitude about it."

That, in many ways, comes from Manning, which is exactly what Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway wanted when the Broncos signed him in 2012. Or, as running back Montee Ball put it:

“He’s one of the captains, but he is the captain, whatever he says we’ve got to listen to. He’s been in this situation plenty of times and he understands how the game goes."

So, that’s how the Broncos will approached their final two preseason games, in the we-haven't-done-anything-yet mode. Even this week’s, ordinarily a game when the team’s starters would play into the third quarter, will likely be played with a little different approach.

With the Broncos and Texans having worked for three days -- Wednesday’s practice was in full pads -- the Broncos are expected to dial back some of their starters in Saturday’s game, perhaps even Manning.

Asked if this week’s work would affect some players’ playing time in Saturday’s game, Fox said he would take the practices with the Texans into account when he decides who plays and how much.

Gase added the Broncos still have to make some tough calls on a crowded depth chart, especially when it comes to some of the team’s younger players.

“I know a lot of you guys, nobody wants us to play the third and fourth preseason game," Gase said. “But we need to get better, there’s a lot of things we need to work on, we’re focused on ... we need to start a game against (the Texans) and we need the fourth one to figure out who’s going to shake out and be on this roster."