Opportunity + Preparation. To me, being successful in the NFL comes down to that equation. Whether it produces some fortuitous bounces, or creates turnovers, or, for lack of a better term, brings a team luck, P+O is the key, and for a team like the Broncos they have to use it to the fullest.
Blow out victories are a nice by-product of O+P*E. You need look no further than the Broncos win yesterday against Seattle. The Broncos hadn't scored that many points since Week 13 in 2009 when they dropped 44 on Kansas City. In fact, the Broncos scored 30+ points just twice last season, both on the road - they also did it against San Diego In Week 6. You have to go back to Week 3 in 2008 - a 34-32 win over New Orleans - to find the last time the Broncos scored 30+ points in a home game.
That's why my favorite football 'theory' is O+P*E=S, or, Opportunity + Preparation * Execution = Success.
Last week against Jacksonville, the Broncos made the crucial mistake at the worst time. It cost them the football game. Yesterday they turned the tables and won easily. That is how razor-thin the line is in the NFL. Just ask the Seahawks. Their 31-6 win over San Francisco during Week 1 was eerily similar to the Broncos win yesterday.
Josh McDaniels talks often about 'complementary football'. Sure, he'd like all three phases of the football team - offense, defense and special teams - to be hitting on all cylinders. Rarely will that happen, but how the three phases compliment each other are key. Yesterday, the Broncos offense was clicking. They were moving the ball, controlling the clock, and kept the Seahawks on their heels. While not perfect, the defense complimented the offense by keeping Seattle off the scoreboard. The Special Teams got in on the act with a turnover of their own. All three phases, while not perfect, were able to impact the game.
Don't Make Every Play, Just The Big Play! - There are 5 plays in every game that usually determine the outcome. Yesterday's game saw 128 rushing/passing plays combined by the two teams. Less than 5% of plays in a game usually determine its outcome. Last week, the Broncos didn't make those plays. Yesterday they did. Here are the 5 I picked - you can choose your own in the comments as well - you only get 5. In no particular order:
1. Champ Bailey INT - Many of these plays are obvious, which is the point. Champ's INT, deep in Broncos' territory, was a huge momentum swing. The defense was on its heels, and the Seahawks were gaining confidence with every snap. But turning the Seahawks over, the Broncos regained momentum, and delivered a huge gut-punch to a team that is trying to build an identity of its own, much like the Broncos. At worst, the Seahawks are thinking 3 points. Instead, they get nothing.
2. Cassius Vaughn Fumble Recovery - Perhaps the play of the game. Really. The Broncos were able to flip field position by once again forcing a Seahawks fumble. If anyone has ever been the gunner on a punt team - at any level - you know the beating you take. Vaughn was the only Broncos cover guy near the returner, and when the ball bounced up to him,near the sidelines no less, Vaughn made a great athletic play to gain control and stay in-bounds. It won't get much love from the media, but us fans know how big of a play it was - and so does the locker room.
3. Knowshon Moreno 1-yard TD Run - The Broncos' struggles in short-yardage/goal line situations is well documented. I could almost sense the tension when the Broncos tried 2 straight runs from the 1-yard line only to get stuffed. Is it Tim Tebow time? Some kind of gimmick play? That's not what Kyle Orton wanted. He motioned over to Josh McDaniels, asking him to keep the same personnel in the game - meaning leave the extra receivers on the sidelines. The Broncos did run the same play - a run off the left side by Knowshon Moreno. It was tough, yes, but Moreno - and the offensive line - did just enough to get into the endzone. Not only did that make a statement in the game, but could pay dividends later in the season as well - for Moreno, the offensive line, and the coaching staff.
4. Brian Dawkins INT - Once again, the Seahwaks were driving only to see a drive stall with no points to show for it. This time, it was the other future Hall of Famer making the big play when the defense needed it the most. The Broncos have issues up front, we all know that. Elvis Dumervil was going to be a huge part of what they wanted to do this year and his loss will have an effect. That's why it is imperative for Bailey, Dawkins and the other veteran leadership on defense to make plays. This INT, when the Seahawks were still in the game, essentially ended it. Afterwards, Dawkins gave credit to DC Wink Martindale for going over that very play during film sessions - Opportunity + Preparation.
5. Orton - Knowshon - Orton - Royal Trickeration - This play was huge on a several fronts. Obviously, it set up the Broncos for a big score. It also converted a 3rd and long situation. Lastly, it gives me the opportunity to explain the difference between a 'Trick Play' and 'Gimmick Football". After the Broncos successfully executed the play, I got several tweets about it, asking my feeling on gimmick football. "The Same", I responded. There's a difference. The Pittsburgh Steelers - one of the most hard-nosed teams in the NFL for the last 40 years, have become notorious for the trick play. It's the reason they draft guys like Hines Ward and Antwan Randle El, even Kordell Stewart and Dennis Dixon. All 4 were college quarterbacks, and 3 of them - Ward, Randle El and Stewart - changed positions to become a weapon in the offense. That's not gimmick football - that's taking advantage of a defense that isn't expecting what is about to happen to them.
The key difference, in my opinion, is when you take the football out of your quarterback's hands, by either taking him off the field, or lining him up in a position he's not familiar with. It means, by rule, someone else is going to be tasked with making a good decision - someone other than the starting QB. A direct-snap to a running back, or using your backup QB as a fullback is not a trick play. It does not fool a defense. A well-timed misdirection play - set up by the effectiveness of the starting quarterback - is not a gimmick. I know the differences appear gray, but not to me. Trick Plays, when executed perfectly like the Broncos did yesterday, are great. Opportunity + Preparation.
Anyone Else Have Questions About Kyle Orton?? - Really. What else does this guy have to do to get respect? So his beards aren't the best. He doesn't have Tom Brady's good looks, and doesn't give an intriguing interview after the game. He's not going to say something controversial in a press conference, nor will he throw a teammate under the bus. He's the first to shoulder the blame after a loss and the first to spread the praise around after a win. Oh yea, 11-14 passing on 3rd down yesterday, what I call the 'Money Down' for a quarterback, is pretty awesome too. Orton is Top-7 in virtually every QB category - at least numbers-wise. Give me a Top-10 quarterback and I know I have a shot to win. I've said it ALL summer and I will say it again. Kyle Orton has complete control of the playbook and is the unquestioned leader of the Denver Broncos. I don't care who the Broncos traded for, who they drafted, Kyle Orton is the BEST OPTION for the Broncos to handle the football in every situation. He's earned it, he's proven it, and now the Broncos seemed content to let him run with it.
Kyle Orton's 1,033 passing yards in his last 3 games mark the highest 3-game passing total by a Broncos QB in 48 yrs (Frank Tripucka, 1,098, '62). He has more weapons, better weapons, than he ever has and he is showing he knows how to use them. I don't care who you wanted to be the quarterback before, but how can you not rally around, and give 100% support to #8 in Orange and Blue?
What's There To Say About Bay-Bay? The Broncos waited until the 2nd Quarter to unleash the New Beast, and Demaryius Thomas answered the bell. Just a few hours after Dez Bryant returned a punt for a touchdown for the Cowboys against the Bears - and I was getting the "Another McDaniels Bust' tweets - Thomas showed why the Broncos had him so high on draft boards. 8 catches, 97 yards and 1 TD. Thomas ran crisp routes, showed great hands, took contact, and most importantly made it out of the game healthy. His first play - a bubble screen on 3rd and 14 that gained 17 yards - showed just how fast and explosive he was. The Seahawks had no tape on Thomas and it showed. They were not ready for the speed. Dare I say the Broncos may finally have that true deep threat? Only time will tell, but Thomas looks like the real deal.
Sometimes The Effort Is More Important That The Results - The Broncos averaged 2 yards per carry yesterday. I'm not counting 3 plays from the victory-formation at the end of the game that go directly against a team's rushing totals. It was essentially 35 carries for 70 yards before those last three plays. Many will focus on the second number - 70. Me? I focus on the attempts. Think back to the preseason. The Broncos weren't even trying to run the ball. 15 attempts against Cincinnati, 20 attempts against Detroit. That's fine, in the preseason, but you have to stay committed to the run to win in the NFL.
The Broncos did that yesterday, and it allowed them to control the clock and forced the Seahawks to keep the thought of defending the run in the back of their minds. Of course, the score helps that along, which is why the Broncos have to play from in front. Something tells me the Broncos are usually going to win football games when they are hovering around the 35-40 rush attempts mark, even if the pure yardage is not there. What I'd like to see is this running game with the Broncos full allotment of offensive lineman.
Oh, speaking of the O-Line, how about J.D. Walton blasting two Seahawk defenders into the back of the end-zone on Correll Buckhalter's TD run. Buckhalter handed the ball to Walton, who seemed confused at first before slamming it into the turf. J.D. Walton is going to be a great player in this League for a long time. Stud.
Rockies V. Broncos is DUMB - I've seen many of you comment about Mark Kiszla's article about Denver becoming more of a Rockies town than a Broncos town. I don't live in Denver, and I will rely on those of you who do to chime in on this, but is this for real? I know Kiszla's job is to stir the pot, create controversy, and sell newspapers, but why pit one Denver fanbase against the other - especially when many people are fans of both?
All I can think about is 2007. That year, Cleveland, which by outsiders is described as an economic dead zone, had three teams that were in the midst of magical years. The Cavaliers went to the NBA Finals, the Indians were one game away from the World Series and the Browns went 10-6, just missing a playoff birth. All three were supported, all games sold out. To be honest, and I'm sure you all remember the Rockies run to the World Series in '07, there is nothing better for a city than to have all their sports teams having success at once. Was Denver more of a hockey-town when the Avs were winning Stanley Cups? What does it mean and why does it matter?
This is a garbage attempt to take a pot-shot at Josh McDaniels and the Broncos. With a Season-Ticket waiting list a half-mile long there are still plenty of Broncos fans waiting in line to get into Invesco Field on Sunday's. Why columnists feel the need to be divisive, to tear communities apart and create divides that DON'T EXIST make no sense to me. The Broncos won, the Rockies are in a Pennant Race, the Avs are filled with young talent, coming off an exciting playoff run of their own, and the Nuggets are surrounded by excitement, regardless of what happens with Carmelo Anthony. Can't the people the attempt to drive sports opinion in Denver just enjoy it instead of using it to gain attention or take shots at the team? I guess that doesn't sell papers, does it?
Let's get to the questions. After a win, the INBOX certainly quiets down a bit. You can send your questions for The Aftermath to firstname.lastname@example.org
What role do you see Maroney having when he officially suits up with the Broncos this season? Do you see the signing of Maroney as a signing only for this season or long term as well - Chad
Great question(s). I think Josh McDaniels wanted a 3rd running back he felt comfortable with - a veteran. IN New England, the Patriots like to use multiple running backs. They have Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and the always-dependable Kevin Faulk. None of those players strike fear into a defense - by themselves - but with that passing attack, the Patriots get a lot of production out of their running backs. That is what Josh is trying to do. He has a young player in Moreno that he is going to give every chance to be 'the guy'. After that, however, Buckhalter and Maroney will be there to create mismatch issues and provide Kyle Orton more options. That is the goal - to have ans many weapons, as many options available every Sunday.
I know you don't like trickeration, but for me it is an effective weapon to change the pace of the game and keep the defense unbalanced. This said, how do you rate the well-executed flea-flicker by the Broncos considering the situation of the game (2nd quarter, 7-0 lead)? And do you think that such plays can give us the edge against the Colts?
I answered this above, but that said, I think trick plays against the Colts could be a mistake. There is one surefire way to be in the game with the Colts. The Broncos did it, in Indianapolis a few years ago with Quentin Griffin, and the Texans did it last week. You need to run, run and run some more. You need to keep Peyton Manning off the field. While I hate to say you have to make Manning beat you, what you can't do is what the Giants did last night - Joseph Addai and Donald Brown cannot be allowed to run up and down the field. By stopping the Colts running game, you hope to put them in 3rd and long situations. Then, maybe, you have a chance to force a punt.
Again, watch what the Texans did to the Colts last week. They ran the ball 42 times for 257 yards. That's 6.1 yards per play. That is the recipe. Unfortunately, as Miami found out last season, even having the ball for 45 minutes isn't enough.
I don't have this info, but wondering... when was the last time all four teams in AFC West won? @NoLeafClover on Twitter
Great question. I had to dig a little bit, and the answer surprised even me. The last time the Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers all WON on the same weekend? Week 11 of the 2005 Season! That was November 20, 2005. The Broncos beat the Jets 27-0, the Raiders beat the Redskins 16-13, the Chiefs beat the Texans 45-17 and the Chargers beat the Bills 48-10. Almost 5 years.
Thanks again everyone! A great win yesterday for the Broncos. Enjoy it!!