Master vs Padawan

                                  Josh-mcdaniels-new-broncos-coach_medium                        via

Welcome to a historic AFL Legacy game in week 5, and yet another NFL storyline is about to be on national display this Sunday, for all of the fans to enjoy. No, this is not a battle between the Republic’s Imperial Stormtroopers and the rogue Jedi rebels, but a smart, physical, 60 minute chess-match on the gridiron in Denver. Two teams, who in this decade have met all but twice (2004 and 2007) will be led into a historic bout, led by two old friends. And no, it is not Obi-Wan Kenobi against Anakin Skywalker either, but Bill Belichick against Josh McDaniels. Two coaches that used to walk the sidelines together, establishing a winning tradition in New England and three championships, in this very decade.


They each bring in two teams that are comparable in some ways, while profoundly different in others. The New England Patriots are 3-1 thus far in the season, while the Denver Broncos are 4-0. Let’s take a look at these teams’ characteristics and pay attention to the stats that matter after the jump:


Advantage Broncos



Advantage Patriots



5, 0

4, 2


Rushing YPG





Rushing YPG Allowed





Red Zone %





Passing YPG





Passing YPG Allowed





Time of Possession


30 min. 36 sec.

35 min. 40 sec.


Turnover Margin






Patriots Offense vs. Broncos defense




The key for Denver here will be to take away Tom Brady’s weapons. Although both Welker and Moss are still a bit banged up, they’re close to 100%, and will be a threat in each series that their numbers will be called. These potent weapons must be taken out of the game completely, forcing Brady to have to go to his secondary weapons, such as Joey Galloway, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and Laurence Maroney. Some good news for the Broncos, is that Galloway has struggled with the Patriots offense thus far, and has frequently said his timing with Brady is a work in progress. Veteran tight ends Ben Watson and Chris Baker should be additional safety valves, should Brady be hurried. Backing them up, Michael Mathews is a good run-blocking tight end, acquired from the Giants last month, and along with the aforementioned cast, will need to step up to try to give their offense some depth and a glimmer of hope in moving the chains against Denver.

Our rushing D thus far is 77.2 YPG (#5) and our passing D thus far is 162.5 YPG (#3.) The Patriots may actually choose a more balanced approach in attacking us, since we’re so good in both categories. Last week against the Ravens, it seems they did just that. Guard Logan Mankins said the team gave a lot of different looks on offense:

We ran screens, draws, direct runs, short passes, long passes, we mixed it up good. And I think that’s a good thing to do, especially against a team like the Ravens.

The offense managed only 4 touchdowns in 13 previous possessions inside the 20. What’s impressive from their last match, is that their offense was able to convert on 3-of-5 red zone opportunities. Wes Welker caught six passes for 48 yards and should be ready to make an even bigger contribution this Sunday, if the Broncos let him.

With the excellent play of our secondary thus far in the season, I expect Moss and Welker to be harrassed most of the game, and in third and long situations, they should be forced into running too many hitch routes, in an attempt to create any separation allowed by our great secondary. Brady won't have a lot of time to throw and I do not expect the nature of this game to allow any long passing opportunities for the Patriots. Elvis Dumervil and every other rushing OLB should have a decent game, especially if they keep their hands as far away from Brady's mask as possible. They also need to avoid late hits of any kind, as the referees are keying in on that, due to the 'Brady Rule.' We want this game to go the way it did when the Patriots faced the Jets, as opposed to the game against the Ravens. We know how those games panned out and if anyone can mimic Rex Ryan's approach to smashmouth football, it's our own Mike Nolan, and I think he'll have our Orange Crush locked and loaded.                      


Broncos offense vs. Patriots defense



Everyone from the Pats Pulpit to MHR knows, that the Patriots will try to take away Denver’s running game and force Kyle Orton into more throwing situations. His glove is off and that is a great sign, but even if the weather will not be a factor and having already adjusted to throwing with a glove on, he’ll now have to make yet another adjustment – to have to throw without it. That’s yet another adjustment that Kyle now needs to make, in order to be as accurate as possible, given the circumstances. Just as he has gotten used to wearing a glove, he will now have to retrain himself to achieve accuracy when throwing without it.


Despite not firing on all cylinders just yet, this passing game has been improving week-to-week and we all know how well Kyle has protected the football up until this point. If the Pats come in with their new 4-3 look trying to stop the run, Orton will need a safety valve.


The good news is, he has a full stable of them. Since I expect Brandon Marshall to be blanketed along with Eddie Royal, I look for narrow openings with either Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Tony Scheffler, or Daniel Graham. Depending upon the personnel we will have on the field, if we bring in our running backs to bait the defense, we may be able to throw some screen passes to them, gaining 5 yards or more, when caught in open space. Although both Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan could do well, I think Peyton Hillis may be the best option for this scenario. I say that because I believe that his game is to catch a screen, build momentum, and then deliver a blow. Since he lacks initial burst, he is less effective when he is being asked to carry the rock and hit the hole at full speed. Thus far, he has not been able to play that game and simply needs to be used in the way we saw last year.


Hopefully, this is one of several wrinkles that McD has kept in his back pocket, just for this affair. Not giving Belichick any film on how Hillis could be used in this new offense, just may be the edge we need to keep the chains moving, put ourselves in position to build a lead, and then hopefully keep it. Should we be fortunate enough to have the lead at half time, we may be able to come out in the second half, fake the pass, and run the ball more effectively with 2 or even 3 TE sets. It ought to slow the game down even more than it already will be, but at the end of the day, time of possession, not turning the ball over, and using our defense to force their offense into making mistakes, will be our recipe for success.


Special Teams


Stating the obvious, I believe that given our better starting field position this season, along with Matt Prater’s success with 31 points thus far, and having the home crowd behind us, we will hold our own. Alphonso Smith should be back and that will help our return game as well as the defense.




Assuming it holds true, the current forecast calls for a mix of sun and clouds, with winds out of the SSW at 10 MPH. Highs should be in the mid 50s and there is a 10% chance of precipitation, so weather should not be a factor.


My Take

While I expect this to be a tough, physical matchup, primarily due to our surprisingly good defense, I do also expect this to be a low scoring affair, as each team will do everything they can in order to force their opponent into making a critical, game changing mistake. After all, has that not been the staple of the Patriots game the past decade? And our new head coach, as we all know and expect, is no different. To use a metaphor, I believe this game will be football’s equivalent of Aikido. This Japanese form of martial art, mastered and made popular by TV icon Steven Seagal, uses its opponent’s momentum against them, forcing them into an error, and taking full advantage of it. What a classic matchup we are about to witness between the master and his former student. In light of all that I have mentioned above, I don’t believe either team will score more than 20 points. From a scoreboard standpoint, when all is said and done, I would not be shocked to see Patriots 14, Broncos 15, or vice-versa.


One final thought on why I believe this game deserves much more than the media’s superficial attention, is that I think Josh McDaniels has been holding back some plays just for this game. Here’s guessing that McD’s known not to show his hand for Bill Belichick early on in the season and it would not surprise me if we get to see more of a glimpse into McD’s true genius this weekend. I believe he’s had this game against the Patriots circled on his calendar ever since he first hung it in his new office in Dove Valley. And this Sunday, we will finally get to see who’s the better chess player – the master or the student. If you ask me, the football world is about to see something none of us have ever seen before in this very game, and that thought alone has me very excited.


Thank you Mr. Bowlen, for having the courage to make a much needed change. It seems to be working.


Fun Facts from Broncos history:

  • The Denver Broncos were one of the original eight AFL teams and played in the Western Division.
  • The Broncos are the first major league team to call Denver home.
  • The name "Broncos" was selected through a fan contest held in 1960. Denver’s 1921 entry in the Midwest Baseball League was also called the Broncos.
  • Denver has sold out every home game for 40 consecutive seasons dating back to 1969.
  • The Broncos have played in six Super Bowls and won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.
  • The Broncos have had three stadiums in their 50-year history: Bears Stadium, University of Denver Stadium and INVESCO Field at Mile High. Bears Stadium was renovated and renamed Mile High Stadium in 1969.
  • The first game at INVESCO Field at Mile High was held on Sept. 10, 2001, against the New York Giants. The Broncos won that Monday Night Football contest 31-20.
  • Denver’s first winning season came in 1973, which also was the year of its first nationally televised game.


Patriots vs Broncos coverage               

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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