Get your game face on Broncos Country, Sunday is as big as it gets! There are tons of story lines heading into tomorrows matchup against the Texans. Former Broncos Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison, and Wade Phillips are coming back to town on the opposing sideline, Rod Smith is getting enshrined into our Ring of Fame, the Broncos are coming off a short week and a sloppy performance against the Falcons, and oh yeah, this game is likely to be big in deciding the playoff picture. Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? It's the third week of the season and I'm talking about the playoffs?!? You betcha! Any game against a fellow AFC rival, especially one that is expected to go deep, is important when considering the playoffs. We don't just want to get there, we want to get there, have a home game, and even a bye. Beating the Texans this week would be one of the steps towards reaching that goal.
What we learned from last week:
- His name may be Peyton "Freakin" Manning folks, but there's still some tarnish on that bronze bust of his. GOAT would be better used to describe the way he threw the game away in the first quarter. Physically he's not all there, and mentally he's still improving. There was lots of confusion early on and by the time Peyton figured it out, too much time had passed. Hey, he had a bad game plain and simple, but this is a new week and with it comes a clean slate, just don't stare down Brandon Stokley this week huh?
- "Old Man McGahee" can still truck! 22 carries, 113 yards, and 2 TD's later, we are reminded of just how much gas Willis has in the tank. He is the unquestioned #1 in the backfield.
- DT is #1. Coming into the season, I figured Decker would be the one with fantastic catches and gaudy numbers, and he very well might be as the season progresses. Demaryius on Monday night showed that he can make some big time plays snagging a ball out high out of the air while dragging the 2nd foot in the side of the endzone for a huge TD! That was one for the highlight reels my friends. DT has more refining to do, but man, his physical tools are off the charts---glad he's on our side for sure!
- Knowshon Moreno is still meh and misused. Someone earlier in the week said "I don't get the hate for Knowshon." My reply? The dude had a handful of snaps, and they resulted in two bad runs (one not his fault to be fair), a sack, and a fumble. Other folks here including Topher have pointed out how some of our offensive pieces are being misused and this is one of them. Screen game anyone?
- Our O-line blocked well but Manning was pressured and looked uncomfortable in the pocket too often. Also, these 3rd and 1's and 2's NEED TO BE CONVERTED. We should be able to pick up a few yards on the ground on 3rd down. We struggled in these situations last year as well.
- Our defense played one hell of a game and did an admirable job holding the Falcons to 27 points! Considering that four turnovers (two of which came on our side of the field) only netted 13 points, I would say the D did their part.
- Champ and Porter will be fine, even against elite talent. Remember Roddy White's fantastic game came all over the field, and Jones was all but shut out (4 recs for 14 yards). There will be a big play here and there against them this year but it will be the exception and not the rule.
- Our front 7 again stuffed out the ru
n. Through two weeks, the Broncos defense is only giving up 71 YPG on the ground.
- JDR needs to step up the blitz calls on 3rd down. Not enough variation through two weeks and while our D improved in 3rd down situations last week, the chains seem to be moving too much for my taste.
- Our front 4 still needs some help to pressure the QB. We hurried Ryan on occasion throughout the game, but he made the correct decisions limiting the rush's affect. Our only sack of the game came from Von Miller in the 4th Q.
- Matt Prater is a ghost this year, and that's exactly how I like it. Out of 6 Redzone opportunities so far this year, the Broncos have converted 5 into TD's. Defensively, we have seen 4 Redzone opportunities per game with 5 TD's overall. These numbers need to go down.
- The replacements, cough I mean scabs, err I mean the overwhelmed men in white hats continue to be a burden to the game. There I used the term "scab" again, you have an excuse to accuse me of being "pro-union" when in fact I'm "anti-suck-i-tude." There's no way the league can expect anyone to take these guys seriously anymore.
Now that some things are out there in the open for us to ponder, follow me and let's jump into their implications on this week!
The Texans come into the game at 2-0 having beaten the Dolphins and Jaguars back to back. Are these teams contenders? Probably not, but you play who's on your schedule and the Texans took care of business. Offensively, they relied on a short field from 4 Dolphins turnovers to put up 24 points in the 2nd quarter of that game. Their rushing attack was held in check in Week 1 to the tune of a 2.4 YPC average. In week 2, that anemic running game shredded the Jags. Between Arian Foster and Ben Tate they had 40 carries for 184 yards (4.6 ypc average) and 3 TD's. Matt Schaub has played the role of game manager and been steady and mistake free. So far this season he has yet to turn the ball over, infact the Texans as a team are +5 in the turnover column to begin the year.
Defensively, this team is scary. In two games they have 6 sacks....3 of which have come from J.J. Watt....and the pass rush isn't even kicking on all cylinders yet! In the four major statistical categories I look at (total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, points) here is where the Texans D stacks up: 1st in overall yards (196.0 per game), 1st in passing defense (124.0 per game), 8th in rushing defense (72.0 per game), and first in points (17 total).
If I have to sum up the Texans in coachspeak it would be 1) run the ball 2) take care of the ball 3) hit the occasional play down the field 4) dominate with defense. This is going to be a dogfight me thinks! Let's look ahead to my questions and keys entering Sunday's game
Can Peyton win the chess match?
He's 1-1 thus far with victory over Dick LeBeau and defeat against Mike Nolan. Given that Peyton is limited physically----and quite honestly has been throughout his career (I'll trust the eyes of Colts fans that say his ball has always been wobbly), he needs to diagnose the defense and react according. When he's wrong, it is very wrong. Hopefully we see a reversal of fortunes this week.
Who blocks JJ Watt, and for that matter anyone else that may be coming?
If he's coming from the offensive right, better put Dreessen in to help Franklin. Wade Phillips can bring a variety of people from a variety of directions, it's on our guys to pick them up and win their battles.
Will McCoy put his players in better situations to succeed?
The WR's weren't targeted much in the 1st half of the game Monday. Knowshon is still being used to run the ball up the middle. The WR's are being used more than the RB's in the screen game. Ronnie Hillman has yet to see the field.
Will Decker and DT see some targets early?
Pretty much says it all.
Will the offensive miscommunication especially in protections begin to improve?
Knowshon's gotten Manning sacked, Manning's gotten Manning sacked, McGahee's not been there to get the hand off, offensive linemen are being blown up on 3rd and short by overloads.
Will our front 7 shut down the run game?
More detail on this further down.
Will JDR spice it up more on 3rd down? Will we play more man with the talent we have?
Our front 4 isn't getting requisite pressure especially on 3rd downs. We have some young and inexperienced talent there, let's help them out as they develop as more complete threats! Also I'm tired of seeing us play zone concepts on 3rd and medium/long! Porter and Champ can man up--let them. If you're worried about either being burned, roll a safety over the top to give them an insurance policy. Also, the nickelback, whoever that is should be playing man on the receiver running routes over the middle on 3rd and 5---I shouldn't see Rahim Moore coming down to make that tackle from deep safety!
Paging Joe Mays...Joe Mays you are needed to stuff the run!
This has the opportunity to be a very key matchup in the game. This is Joe Mays strength...and weakness--I'll explain. A Dennison/Kubiak offense is likely to exploit overpersuit through bootlegs and misdirection plays. Will Joe Mays, and the others that are responsible for their gaps maintain? Or will Owen Daniels and CO be allowed to run rampant over the middle and down the seems IF we sellout on the playaction? This worries me as our defense is weakest in the middle of the field so far.
Will our D be able to hold onto some turnovers this week?
I counted about three balls last week that should have been intercepted but weren't. I know, there's a reason why these guys are DB's and not WR's, but please HOLD ON TO THE BALL WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE!!!
With that, here are my keys to the game:
On offense, let's perhaps establish a rhythm before running no huddle. It is to our advantage to go no huddle, but let's get our players settled into the flow of the game first. This is just as much for Manning as it is everyone else. Also, with this defense we have to stay disciplined. Just like week one, take what they are giving you and don't force things that aren't there. Sooner or later it will be. I like how our running game keeps defenses honest even out of the shotgun, so let's continue that. Finally absolutely, under no circumstances do we turn the ball over!
Defensively this is our biggest test thus far. Is our improved rush D just a mirage? or is it for real? We will find out this week. I don't see any reason for the Texans to want to be pass happy, run, run, run some more and then take some shots downfield. The longer they keep Peyton on the field the better. Though we overcame that scenario in Week 1, it still is something I don't want to face too often. Get them off the field and get our offense as many opportunities as possible. Run D, much of our fate relies on you this week
For those that don't like a lot of words, here's the "cliff notes" version to my questions and keys:
Don't let J.J. Watt think he's Von Miller
McCoy and JDR put on their big boy pants
PM + DT + ED = Yippee!
Can you hear me now?
Mays is no regular cup of Joe
Stick 'em if you've got em Broncos secondary
Instead of "Run, Forest, Run!" I want to see the truck run him down!
Congratulations Mr. Smith, hopefully this is just a prelude to the HOF!
That's all for now my MHR Brethren, I think it will be a tough, hard-nosed game.
My prediction: Broncos 17 Texans 13
Go Broncos!!! Go away scabs!---there, I said it again;)