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Colts don't have the roster to keep pace with Broncos

The Denver Broncos jumped out to an early 24-0 lead and staved off a late comeback attempt to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-24, in Sunday night's season opener. Our takeaways:

  1. Going back to last year's playoffs, the Colts' defense has allowed an average of 39 points and 431 yards in the last three games. Armed with ample salary cap space, general manager Ryan Grigson hasn't fixed the problems that have dogged this team for two years now. They lack backbone on defense, struggle to keep the heat off Andrew Luck in the pocket and can't find a consistent ground attack. Indianapolis is strong enough to win a weak division, but the roster has too many holes to hang with a Super Bowl contender like Denver.
  1. The Broncos are still the class of the AFC, thanks in large part to an overhauled defense. Big-ticket free-agent signings DeMarcus Ware (1.5 sacks) and Aqib Talib (three passes defensed) came up with key plays, and Jack Del Rio got contributions from a entire troupe of players (Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby) who weren't on the active roster during the Super Bowl run. The Broncos generated a combined 27 sacks, quarterback hits, tackles for loss and passes defensed compared to 12 for the Colts' defense.
  1. One positive note for the Colts: Reggie Wayne looked like his old self in his first game back from ACL surgery, hauling in a team-high nine receptions for 98 yards on 13 targets.
  1. Trent Richardson managed just one more rushing yard (20) than Luck. The Colts want to hang their hat on a power-run game, but they -- quite understandably -- don't trust Richardson to move the chains. The coaching staff has a dilemma, as Ahmad Bradshaw is the more effective player in a body that can't hold up to the pounding of a featured-back role. The Colts have a similar predicament at tight end, where Dwayne Allen is simply a better player than Coby Fleener, who is afforded more opportunities in the passing game.
  1. Memo to defensive coordinators: Linebackers don't have a prayer against Julius Thomas. The Broncos' athletic tight end hauled in a trio of touchdown passes in a dominant second quarter.
  1. With Wes Welker out of the lineup, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas split time in the slot while Andre Caldwell worked out wide. Rookie Cody Latimer is not in the rotation. Sanders has played better in the preseason and Sunday night than he ever did in Pittsburgh. He's the ideal fit for Peyton Manning's offense.
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