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Peyton Manning taking punishment in pocket he hasn't seen in decade

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When those in and around the Denver Broncos talk about the growing pains underway in the team's offensive line right now the real pain just might be felt by quarterback Peyton Manning.

Because two games into the season and Manning already has had defenders tossing him to the ground at a pace that has rarely been seen in his career. Manning has been sacked seven times in the Broncos' first two games – four against the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener and three times in Thursday night’s win in Kansas City.

And in a career when he has been sacked more than 23 times in just one season (29 in 2001), he has not had a two-game stretch with seven sacks since 2005. His worst four-game span (14 sacks) came in 2001.

“You never want those,’’ Broncos’ guard Evan Mathis said. “That will always be a priority, making sure he is not getting hit. I think we all want to get better, starting with myself.’’

In the opener the Broncos’ pass protection suffered when the team was in a three-wide receiver set. The Ravens had all four of their sacks to go with an interception return for a touchdown by Jimmy Smith when the Broncos were in a three-wide look.

However, the Chiefs did their part to punch some holes in that one-game hypothesis Thursday night. Like the Ravens, the Chiefs play a 3-4 look, and the Broncos struggled against Kansas City’s uber rusher Justin Houston, who finished with two sacks.

Two of the three Chiefs’ sacks, however, came when the Broncos were in a two-tight end set – one by Houston, one by Mike DeVito – while Houston’s second sack came with the Broncos in three-wide. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak continues to express confidence in the extreme makeover in the offensive line that includes a rookie left tackle in Ty Sambrailo and a guard in Mathis who was signed only two weeks before the regular season – on Aug. 26 – will take hold eventually.

And the Broncos believe the coming weeks will show the Ravens’ and Chiefs’ defenses presented a difficult opening stretch. But in the meantime Manning is taking the kind of punishment the Broncos shouldn't have a 39-year-old take.

“If we will continue to get better around him, he’s going to be just fine,’’ Kubiak said. “All those things that take some things off his shoulders. … We’re trying to help him. It’s about us getting better around him, and I promise that he will do his job.’’

The Broncos' efforts to cocoon Manning in an efficient run-heavy offense haven’t come to fruition either. The Broncos are averaging just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt and don’t have a rushing touchdown.

“Obviously we’ve got to get a little cleaner and a lot better,’’ Kubiak said. “But it’s exciting as a coach, when you look at what you think you can do and you clean up those things.’’

“Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do,’’ running back C.J. Anderson said. “ … We as running backs take that on our shoulders, we have to make some things go, we know that. But we’re 2-0 and as a team we’re happy about that, but the run game is going to come. We all believe that.’’

Manning’s health may depend on it.