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Column: Ugly win, but Denver Broncos have no reason to apologize for winning

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Jacksonville was never going to be too much of a problem, except for those who love favourites and bet on the Denver Broncos against the biggest underdog in NFL history.

The bookies in Vegas were always a bit uncomfortable about the 27-point spread, though even they wouldn't have given odds that the Broncos would be reduced to pulling off a fake punt in the third quarter to get separation from a team that was supposed to have been blown off the field by halftime.

The problem with expectations is that they sometimes get too high to meet, even if you're Peyton Manning and seemingly can do no wrong. On Sunday, he did a lot wrong, fumbling twice and throwing a pick-6 that helped the winless Jaguars remain competitive even if they were never in any danger of actually winning.

The end result was a 35-19 victory that satisfied neither Denver's fans nor the bettors who have profited so far this year on the Broncos' bandwagon. It should also give pause to those so caught up in Manning's big start that they were beginning to look deep into the schedule to see what teams might be in the way of an undefeated season.

They don't need to look far. The Broncos travel to Indianapolis next weekend to face Manning's old team in a game that will tell us a lot more about Denver than anything that happened Sunday in Denver.

"People tell me it looks easy. There's nothing about it that's easy," Denver coach John Fox said. "There is resistance out there. It's called the other team."

The bookies still expect Denver to win, making the Broncos a 5 1/2-point favourite against the Colts. They should also be favoured in all their remaining games, especially with Von Miller, the key to their defence, coming back off suspension against Indy.

But the odds are they're not going to run the table. There will be times when they struggle, even if their fans have such high expectations that some actually booed the Broncos as they left the field with a 14-12 halftime lead.

"We've got high expectations, too," receiver Wes Welker said about the boos. "We understand it. We almost appreciate it. We've got to get into gear."

Indeed, the Broncos are victims somewhat of a remarkable start in which they averaged 46 points a game and topped 50 points their last two games before Sunday. The fact that they had to apologize for beating a fellow NFL team by more than two touchdowns was almost laughable, though apologize they did.

"It was good enough today but it's not good enough to win games down the road," said Knowshon Moreno, who had three second-half touchdown runs.

It won't be good enough to win at Indianapolis, that's for sure. Manning's return to the city he once owned will be the story line, but the Colts are a surprisingly good team with wins over the Seahawks and 49ers this season.

But while the Broncos were far from impressive against the Jags, it's hard to fault a team for scoring 35 points and winning by 16. They may have set the bar too high, but coming off a tremendous shootout against Dallas last week and with Indianapolis up next, this was a game where they didn't have to be razor sharp.

Don't forget, too, that while the Broncos are favoured to win the Super Bowl, this was the Super Bowl for Jacksonville.

Yes, they may have been a tad overconfident against the hapless Jags. But it's a good bet they won't make the same mistake when it really counts.

"Three turnovers was tough and then had some things that just didn't execute as well," Manning said. "But some good things as well that we can learn from."

Manning called the win a good one over a team that isn't as bad as everyone thought. He said all the talk about the huge point spread motivated Jacksonville, and that he and his teammates didn't execute well most of the game.

The Broncos have gone an entire year without losing a regular-season game, dating to Oct. 7, 2012. That the streak could end at any time is something Manning understands better than most.

"It's not that easy to win football games," he said. "I learned early to never take winning for granted."

Not in the NFL. Not even against Jacksonville.

A win is a win, and Manning and the Broncos have nothing to apologize about.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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