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Publish Date: 8/27/2005

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Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes last season, brings the Colts’ high-octane attack to Denver this evening for a preseason game against the Broncos. AP file photo/Darron Cummings

Broncos up for Colts’ challenge
Manning will put young DBs to test this evening


ENGLEWOOD — Denver Broncos rookie cornerback Darrent Williams doesn’t intimidate easily.

Upon finding out today’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts will be televised nationally, Williams was as giddy as a kid told he could go to the carnival.

“That means I can showcase my skills,” Williams said. “People back home can watch my talent.”

Obviously Williams hasn’t watched footage of the Broncos’ past two

playoff losses to Indy. Quarterback Peyton Manning and company have made the Broncos look silly. The Colts have outscored Denver, 90-34.

In particular, Manning has been tormenting Denver cornerbacks. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes in those two playoff games.

This past Jan. 9, Manning had rookie cornerback Roc

Alexander wanting to be anywhere but on the field after picking on him mercilessly. Receiver Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 221 yards that day on Alexander.

So Williams should be scared. With Champ Bailey out with a tweaked hamstring, Williams will have to cover an equal dose of Marvin Harrison and Wayne.

“It’s a great challenge,” Williams said. “It’s an honor to go out there and tell people that I’ve been on the same field as Peyton Manning. I hope I can get a pick.”

Good luck, kid. Manning doesn’t throw many.

But you’ve got to admire the optimism.

“If you want a challenge as a defensive back in the NFL, come play the Colts,” safety John Lynch said. “I love the fact that our young guys are getting an opportunity to play.”

Lynch looks at this game as a litmus test. It will tell the defense if it’s made any strides. Sure, this is just a preseason contest, but the Broncos are putting an awful lot of eggs in this basket.

“If you want to be the best, play well against the best,” Lynch said. “I think it’s pretty easy to stake a claim on them as the best offense in the NFL. It’s a great challenge for us. We got drubbed there, but you know that history.

“Everything’s a dress rehearsal in preseason. But if we want to be special, we’ve got to bring it every game.”

This will be the last time to see the Broncos’ starters until the regular season opener at Miami on Sept. 11. The final preseason game of the year will be a chance for the bubble players to make the roster.

The starters will receive extended playing time. They’ll be out there into the third quarter.

“This is really going to help us and get us finely tuned,” receiver Ashley Lelie said.

The fact it’s against the Colts only adds to the drama.

“We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth,” Lelie said. “We get a chance to hit them. This is a good challenge for us.”

The offense would take a similar showing as last week against San Francisco. The first-team unit marched the ball at will and scored 10 points on two drives.

Only a holding penalty prevented a pair of touchdowns.

“We just want to see our football team keep on getting better,” Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. “We’d like to end it with our starters on a good note.”

Don’t think the Broncos have forgotten the beating they took only eight months ago. It’s still fresh in their minds.

“You go into every game wanting to win, but it’s a lot sweeter to beat a team that beat you before,” Denver linebacker D.J. Williams said. “That’s in the back of your head.”

For Williams, facing Manning, Harrison and Wayne hasn’t caused sleepless nights. On the contrary, he’s counting down the hours until kickoff.

“This is a team that passes the ball 80 percent of the time,” Williams said. “So I’m going to get challenged a lot. I’m looking forward to this.”

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