ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -The Denver Broncos lead the league in points and perspiration.
They've sweated out back-to-back home wins over San Diego and New Orleans despite jumping out to seemingly safe 21-3 second-quarter leads both times.
It took Ed Hochuli's erroneous whistle to help them beat the Chargers 39-38 two weeks ago and Martin Gramatica's errant field goal attempt in the final two minutes to turn away the Saints 34-32 Sunday.
``We've got to be the luckiest team right now,'' Champ Bailey declared.
The Broncos have given up 70 points and nearly 1,000 yards of offense in the last two weeks, with 798 of those yards coming through the air as Philip Rivers and Drew Brees picked them apart.
Take out the opponents' final possessions, when the Chargers got the ball back with 24 seconds and the Saints with 8, and the Broncos yielded scores on 12 of 20 possessions in their two-game homestand.
placing handoffs with effective short passes, some of which have turned into big plays.
And with big, early deficits, their opponents have gone to the air against a Denver pass rush that's been miserable with Elvis Dumervil's broken pinkie rendering him unable to grab tackles to get good leverage.
Coach Mike Shanahan was looking on the bright side after watching the tape Monday, noting the Broncos held the Saints to 88 yards on the ground after limiting the Chargers to 80.
``We've talked about it from Day 1, you've got to be able to stop the run to have a chance to have a good defense, and we did that, 3.5 yards per rushing attempt,'' Shanahan said. ``And that's where you start. We'll get better with our pass defense as time goes on.
``There's a number of things that are new in comparison to a year ago, and that will just take some time.''
The Broncos spent their offseason shoring up their run defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL a year ago, but they're still getting used to new defensive boss Bob Slowik's scheme. The jury is out on their new safeties, Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel, and also their reshuffled line.
Despite a 3-0 record, Denver's defense ranks dead last against the pass and 29th overall.
s. But that's something you can work on, something you can get better at.''
The Saints were 8-for-14 on third down.
``And they had a third down-and-12 and a third down-and-7 when it was 21-3 and that game was almost over,'' Shanahan lamented. ``You just have to be on with your zone drops and you have to make a tackle here and there. But it's something that we can work on, especially with that type of effort. That was as hard as we've played for a long time.''
Things should get easier for the Broncos, who face winless Kansas City next weekend.
``I think we do know that Philip Rivers and Drew Brees are exceptional and if you give them a certain look then they are going to take advantage of it,'' Shanahan said. ``Like I said, we could have put them away early in a couple situations, but we didn't.''
In this bottom-line business, though, Shanahan and the Broncos couldn't be happier after three weeks.
``You take a look at a game where a team gets 500 yards of offense, then you usually get guys that are not playing as hard as you would like,'' Shanahan said. ``But when you get guys playing at that level and that intensity, even though they did rack up that many yards, then you have a chance to get better.
``I think our guys are realistic: We have a ways to go. We've had a good start, we've made some strides, but we're far from where we want to be.''
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